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Please talk to me about foot drop

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,671
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:19 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
I am 41. It has been 3 weeks since onset of left foot drop. And 10 days since my L5-S1 discectomy and laminotomy to treat it. The surgeon said the nerve was very inflamed. Post op I could lift my toes off the ground a little - which I could not do before. But I must admit I am quite discouraged as I cannot control my foot which seriously limits the distance I can walk comfortably. I also have to walk very slowly to avoid falling on my face. It is hard to believe just 3 weeks ago I was walking and running several miles everyday. I am so depressed. I could handle the pain, but not being able to walk or hike is devastating to me.

Did your foot drop resolve immediately after surgery? If not, how long did it take to have some improvement? Was improvement sudden or gradual? If it did not improve, how did you cope with this type of limitation? Did you have other problems that resulted from your altered gait? Any advice would be greatly appreciated!


  • Redrock,

    I had drop foot in my right foot following my 2 level fusion last year. I did resolve to a certain extent, but most of the resolution was because I forced myself to do things, i.e. walking and ankle pumps. Its hard to compensate for nerve impairment, but you can do things to keep the muscles working. I just had a revision surgery that has resolved the drop foot problem and I am now working on rebuilding the strength in that foot. You need to keep working on it no matter how frustrating it gets. It can resolve, but its a very slow process. The less you do, the longer the recovery period.

  • I am walking a couple miles a day. I will try some ankle strengthening exercises too. It is good to hear it can improve with exercise. Glad to hear yours has resolved! Thanks Dave.
  • I never heard the term "foot drop" from my doctor, however I did have significant weakness in my left foot (so much so that I couldn't raise myself on just my left toes, or even remain standing on my left toes if I picked my right leg up)…so I am guessing that is very similar to foot drop (if not the same thing.)

    At two weeks after surgery, my doc did some strength tests on my left foot and said it was improving, however I still couldn't stand on my left toes or raise myself so I wasn't noticing the strength gain. In fact, I thought I wasn't progressing at all…but my doc was very encouraged.

    He put me in PT at two weeks and they started working on that (left foot strength) with various exercises (one of which was just me walking around on my toes at home, and then progressing into single leg calf raises off the floor.) It didn't take long for that strength to return to where I could stand on my left toes or raise myself. Even now (11 weeks post-op L5/S1 microd), my left calf/foot is somewhat weaker than my right. I still have some left foot numbness and leg pain (occassionally)….and the doc said it will take quite awhile for that nerve to heal fully.

    Anyway, the moral of my story is, it may just be a bit too soon for you to notice a drastic improvement. If I had to "guesstimate" at a time before I noticed that I could lift myself or stand on those toes, it was probably around 5 or 6 weeks.

    Good luck and don't get discouraged….I went through that "this sucks" phase for a few weeks after surgery…but after about a month to six weeks, I started to see some light at the end of the tunnel.
  • I guess I am expecting a lot. It is just that the amount of time between onset and surgery was so short,I expected more immediate improvement. And of course, like everyone else, I am hoping for reassurance that the surgery was a success. Thanks for sharing your story!
  • Hey Redrock,

    If your nerve was very inflammed it could take a long time for things to settle again. If there has been any damage, it could be as long as 6 months before it heals.

    My step-dad suffers from this too, and his physio recommended that he use a piece of Theraband wrapped around his foot and then use it to help pull the foot up. This can help to get things working again.

    Good luck and try to keep your spirits up, I know it's difficult but you need to stay positive if you can. Hang in there! Spicey
  • yep, i can identify with whatever I read here...moreso, redrock.i am a SOUTH AFRICAN and just about 60 years and had a L5/S1 decompression done in INDIA after two years of progressive pain down the right leg and gradual weakness of both legs.

    Thank GOD,( and of course, thankx to an excellant team of medics) the minimal invasive op was a success.The pain is gone...BOOM..ZERO!!! but for some unexplained reason i started to develope a left foot dropfoot from the ankle down.Its frustrating( but makes me deeply symphathise with the LEGLESS wearing prosthetics) and am now wearing a day SPLINT to keep the swing of the foot in place.this i find ok as interim measure BUT want to GET a lasting solution...via surgery or whatever means.

    Any ideas...?
  • Hi there,
    Foot drop takes a lot of getting used to and in some cases the prognosis is good. Mine is a result of surgery going pair-shaped to the point of medical negligence so as its so extreme, things won't improve. Trick is daily excercise, stretching and pulling the toes towrds you albeit with the aid of a stretchy piece of material. Good luck eh...Helen
  • Hi there,
    Foot drop takes a lot of getting used to and in some cases the prognosis is good. Mine is a result of surgery going pair-shaped to the point of medical negligence so as its so extreme, things won't improve. Trick is daily excercise, stretching and pulling the toes towrds you albeit with the aid of a stretchy piece of material. Good luck eh...Helen
  • Redrock,

    I'm 16 years old and i too suffer from foot drop. I was 12 when i had surgery on my left leg to correct it and i remember after the operation i was able to wiggle my toes up and down, which i was unable to do before. Following my surgery i did some physical therapy to regain movement, however, being a teenager i neglect anything i'm told to do. The best advice i can give is to go to physical therapy and do the daily exercises they give you because if i had done them when i was told i probably wouldnt be so self concsious when i walk. High School is cruel enough already, foot drop just adds to the insecurity.

    good luck with it!
  • i have had foot drop for about 2 months now i went to a orthopedic surgeon he told me it would lats 6 to 9 months. The meds i have been on is oxy codone 7.5 nuroton 300mg ativan 1mg and methodone 10mg. The pain is unreal it feels like it is on fire my right foot is out of commission. I am 32 years old i get around my house by crawling luckily my left foot works some what. I have crutches but for long periods i need the wheelchair. What you guys have told me about nuroton you have to be weened of it is that true. I recently have been prescribed transine in replacement the orthopedic surgeon says i need physical therapy but the pain as every one has said is unreal it affects my calf the muscle feels dead. As well is this a life long thing and will i just have to except being on pain meds the rest of my life i have to eat 5 to 7 of the oxy 7.5 to help with the pain is there a better medication out there i have no insurance all the docs want me to get on ssi and medicaid since i cannot work can any one give me feed back please this is the most horrible thing i have been through please help crown
  • i hope you get through it i am told therapy will work i hope things get better as i am going through the same thing but i was told surgery does not work may be i was lied to by the doc because i do not have insurance good luck
  • i wrote my comments about a week a go. My foot still kills no one has responded, please i am really in a time were i need to know a little knowledge from people themselves. I have read up on everything in doctors books, but i would like to know from real people who are actually going through the same thing i am. If any one out there is going through the same thing i am. In the condition i described above (foot drop) please let me know thank you.
  • is no one at this time who is suffering from foot drop and can tell you anything about it I always wonder when someone drags up a post from a year or two ago -- generally the person who started the thread will not be around to respond.

    Good luck to you.
    3 level spinal fusion, L3/4, L4/5, L5/S1, November 2008. Stiff, but I can walk.
  • I'm 6 months post op (microdisc) from a severe L4/L5 herniation.
    I've had little improvement from my foot drop, maybe 10% better.
    It's not fun, but I try to remain positive. I basically have one nerve that continues to not respond, and that's the peroneal.
    The neurosurgeon said that it may take up to 2 years for improvement, if it improves. My nerve was pretty damaged from the disc.

    Oh well...36 years old, in great shape...but I have a rubber foot. :(
  • You may want to start a new topic with your questions, the tag-on to this old posting won't get as much attention.

    Unfortunately, I can't help with your foot drop, but I wish you the best and sure you'll be getting some response.

  • I had 2 herniated disc that were bothering for the last 10 years. I recently went to a neurosurgeon that said I was a perfect candidate for Epideral injections. I went to get the first injection and while he was giving the injection it felt like the sciatic nerve was throbbing. I was fine after the injection but the next day I couldn't move my left foot up (foot drop) and I had SEVERE pain in my leg. My foot was completely dead and I couldn't stand longer that about 5 seconds without my leg feeling like a lighting bolt was hitting it. I went back to neurosurgeon who said herniation was bigger and that I needed emergency microdiscectomy to relieve L-5 nerve root causing the foot drop. I had the surgery 13 days ago. NS said I was messed up. My nerve was attached to the disc and he had to dissect it off the disc. He also did foraminotomy. My foot is maybe a little better. Was hard to walk after surgery but now I'm walking okay except for my foot. I started feeling a little something down the back of my leg today and it has me worried but could that be the fact that the nerve was so hurt? Anyone fully recover? How long was it before you really noticed your foot coming back? I have a physical job and this really has me worried. Any help or advice greatly appreciated. Thanks. Don.
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