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Man with walking frame

Dropped foot and falling over

Falling Fiasco

A few of us MSers are no strangers to falling and are well acquainted with the ground. One moment you're on your feet, minding your own business, the next you're lying on the floor quickly assessing what injuries you have.

I never think “goodness, I have fallen again” as I'm too busy going through my mental checklist to make sure that every part of my body performs as before.

Having a dropped foot is a bit like always having an anchor down, making movement slow. It is quite common with those who have neurological disorders, but there are effective ways to manage it.

Things that can help

My lovely physio has provided so much assistance with my dropped foot, I can’t thank her enough. She started off by introducing me to a splint (known as ankle-foot orthosis to some). The first was plastic and rubbed my foot something awful, so I was referred to Orthotics where I obtained a carbon-fibre splint. We get on a lot better!

I also battle with really bad spasticity so my leg is often pointed, like a chopstick, and I have to stop myself from tripping over my already dropped foot, which is in a funny position on the ground. I often look like a stickman whilst trying to negotiate my way from A to B.

Carpets are my mortal enemy! The carpet often prevents my leg from completing a stride by holding my foot prisoner, meaning I have to stop myself doing the splits. We have laminate flooring throughout our flat so I can glide from room to room like an ice skater.

My marvellous machine

Recently, my physio introduced me to Functional Electrical Stimulation (FES). This marvellous machine is a life changer! FES uses electrical stimulation through electrodes placed on the appropriate nerves to lift your foot when you are walking, allowing a more natural stride. I was lucky to receive a grant from the MS Society to allow me to buy one of my own and this makes such a difference to my day-to-day life.

I am still able to work full time. FES, with my other walking aids, allows me to walk more comfortably and naturally ensuring that I have the energy to continue my day; rather than using it all to swing my leg so that my foot does not trail on the ground.

Getting back up again

However, paving stones and kerbs can still get in the way. Just before New Year, my mother-in-law came to pick me up so that we could collect my lovely partner Sarah from work. I caught the toe of my dropped foot on the kerb, twisting my ankle badly, and then landing on top of it ensuring that I had a horrendous sprain.

It was only later that I realised that my ankle had ballooned. Sarah insisted that we visit A&E to have this checked out. We took the mother-in-law with us as, despite being 30, we still felt like we needed a grown-up present. At the hospital, we parked on a hill and I climbed out of the car and into my wheelchair.

My mother-in-law instructed me to ensure the breaks were in place as she was going to let go of the chair to close my car door. She let go, turned away and I shouted “weee!” She spun round in a complete panic before she realised that I was sitting in my chair laughing. I had to roll for my life!

All was well and I was instructed to keep my foot elevated to reduce the swelling, but I was off work for some time. The pain was difficult to manage when walking and my confidence was completely missing. I worked through this, built my strength up and have returned to work.

Like many of the body’s reactions to MS, dropped foot is difficult but there are ways to manage it if you seek help. I fall but the important thing is I get back up again.

Karine was diagnosed with MS in 2013. She lives in Edinburgh with her partner Sarah and works as a senior business associate. Read more from Karine on her blog.