Choosing Between Functional Electrical Stimulation and Ankle-Foot Orthosis
Foot drop tends to be a symptom of another condition rather than a disease in its own right. It most commonly occurs as a result of nerve damage either in the central nervous system, which is the brain and spinal cord, or in the peripheral nervous system which are the nerves from the spinal cord to the muscles. The root cause therefore needs to be investigated and a treatment for foot drop administered to help you regain control and mobility. The question is, what is the best treatment for foot drop? This post investigates the applications and benefits of the two most common treatments to help you make the right decision.
What is the Best Treatment for Foot Drop?
Foot drop is usually treated either via ankle and foot orthotics or functional electrical stimulation (FES). The former is a brace worn on the foot and lower leg to provide support, increase control and protect against further injury. The latter is a device with electrodes just below the knee, which electrically stimulates the nerve to lift the foot at the right time while walking. Both treatments will enable you to walk more naturally, efficiently and safely.
A foot orthosis (splint) is the most common form of treatment and works for virtually anyone, whether you have suffered a degenerative disease or a traumatic or local nervous system injury, and can be made to give optimum support depending on the overall disability. FES is relatively new but rapidly growing in popularity; however, it can only be used if the foot drop was caused by a central nervous system injury, such as cerebral palsy, stroke, multiple sclerosis or a high spinal trauma.
Research has shown that both foot drop treatments can help improve walking speed, endurance in walking range and bodily mobility in general. No significant difference was found between the two treatments in terms of these three factors.
However, while a foot orthosis supports the ankle, increases control, and helps correct the deformity, FES can also encourage muscle development and restore reflex responses. It has the potential to correct your gait and may even enable you to regain voluntary control over your foot and ankle over time. This is because the brain can relearn, which is known as neural plasticity – a most exciting area of research.
Apart from the fact that FES is only suitable for patients with an upper motor neuron injury, the decision really depends on what you want to get out of your foot drop treatment. Traditional orthotics provide stable and consistent support, while FES also has the potential to correct your gait, further increasing independence.
Technology in Motion provides both foot orthotics and FES, and can help you decide on the best treatment for your foot drop depending on the condition and your lifestyle. Browse the website for more information or call 0330 100 1800 to speak to an expert Orthotist.