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Treat Foot Drop with Ayurveda: The Science Behind the Tradition

Foot drop is a neurological condition in which the foot can’t be raised, due to weakness of the muscles in the leg. Ayurveda is helping for centuries to treat many different ailments and diseases. This article will explore Ayurvedic treatments for foot drop, and how they differ from Western medical treatment.

What is a foot drop?

Foot drop, or paralysis of the dorsiflexion of the foot, is a debilitating condition. This occurs because of damage to the nerves and muscles that control movement at the ankle. The most common symptom is difficulty lifting your foot up towards your shin; this can lead to a shuffling gait and may also result in tripping. Someone with a foot drop will consciously try to lift their feet as they walk. This causes them to walk with an odd step, almost like walking on tiptoes because they cannot move their heel when walking or running.

There are many causes for foot drop including nerve injury, muscular impairment, stroke, diabetes, Multiple Sclerosis (MS), polio and other neuromuscular disorders such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) or spinal cord injury. Foot drop can be similar to foot drag, but there is a distinct difference between the two conditions. When you twitch your big toe, sometimes the little toe stretches with it and appears to move along as well. This is normal because it occurs in tandem with a bigger muscle movement. If you cannot lift your foot due to paralysis of some part of your lower leg, then this condition is called foot drop.

Ayurvedic treatments for foot drop

Foot Drop vs Drag

Foot Drags – is characterized by an involuntary abnormal dragging motion of one or both feet during walking while the heel remains on the floor. It results from the incomplete transfer of weight onto the forefoot from a hind-foot/ posture with flexion at the knee or hip joints. The term ‘foot drag’ is frequently used synonymously with foot drop, but it is completely different. Also, a “step off’ from the affected side can occur as well as a tendency to turn on the toes of that side in order to make up for lack of ground clearance (the dragging motion).

How does a person walk with drop foot?

Foot drop occurs when the nerve that provides control to the muscles in one or both lower legs damages. This can occur as a result of injury, stroke, multiple sclerosis (MS), spinal cord injury. And other conditions which affect motor function.

As a result, foot drop makes it difficult for an individual to raise their foot off the ground as they walk. To compensate for this loss, people with foot drop tend to drag one of their feet while walking, causing them to take shorter strides than normal.

The use of two crutches or a pair of forearm crutches helps distribute weight so that individuals with foot drop can maintain their mobility without falling over. In addition, those who suffer from paralysis caused by damage to certain parts of the brain or the spinal cord are likely to use forearm crutches or a wheelchair.

How does foot drop occur due to slip disc?

A herniated disc occurs when the soft gel-like center of an intervertebral disc ruptures through a tear in its surrounding, outer ring (annulus). The gel-like substance can then squeeze out and put pressure on nearby spinal nerves which results in pain, tingling, or numbness. A slip disc injury is not to be confused with a prolapsed disc also known as a slipped disc. A slipped disc refers to where the inner nucleus pulposus has come out of its position within the annulus but remains within the confines of the vertebral endplates. It is possible for both conditions to occur at once; however, there are several other less common causes that may result in damage to cadaverous discs. These include infection, trauma, and inflammatory conditions.

What does Ayurveda say about foot drop?

Nerve damage and muscle atrophy directly relate to imbalances in Vata. The “dosha” responsible for movement across joints. In Ayurveda, over time or with repeated use, swollen joints or friction from tendons rubbing against bone may create dryness and heat in the area of the affected nerves, thus causing their deterioration.

Treatment must focus on correcting this imbalance through an emphasis on promoting moisture retention by stimulating blood circulation to nourish. This simultaneously heals muscles and connective tissues.

Ayurvedic Treatments for Drop Foot Due To Nerve Damage:

Ayurvedic treatments for foot drop focuses on the treatment of the nerve, bones, or muscles. Ayurveda recommends herbs to eliminate toxins from the body. As well as medicines and therapies that help to strengthen the affected area. Ayurvedic medicine also focuses on prevention by improving your diet, overall lifestyle habits (such as exercise) and Ayurveda may recommend Ayurvedic exercises for foot drop.

Ayurveda suggests ways you can help the brain to repair and regenerate damaged nerves. Ayurveda also helps you regain movement in your body. The key is to begin with treatments that not only address nerve damage but also encourage healing of the muscles, connective tissues and bones in the area.

1. Reduce Inflammation:  

Ayurveda recommends a diet that reduces inflammation especially when inflammation is an underlying cause for the condition. Consuming ginger, turmeric, neem, astragalus herbs, green tea, and other similar anti-inflammatory foods can help reduce pain. Experienced by those suffering from nerve or muscular problems.

2. Increase Circulation:  

To help repair and regenerate nerves, the body requires oxygen, warmth, and nourishment. Exercise is a great way to improve circulation however it is important to start slowly. Limiting exercise with more extreme movements to ensure that pain has subsided before increasing the intensity of activity. For those suffering from inflammation affecting nerve or joint function, massaging affected areas can revive circulation in the area, as well as help, relieve discomfort caused by swelling.

3. Moisturize Joints / Muscles:

There are several Ayurvedic herbs known for their ability to increase moisture retention in connective tissue. Such as ashwagandha ( Withania somnifera ), punarnava ( Boerhavia diffusa ), bala ( Centella asiatica ) and shilajit .  The paste from these herbs with certain medicated oils, helps in foot drop when applied locally. There are also external applications of ghee, aloe vera gel, and cool water with hyaluronic acid which can encourage moisture retention in areas that have been damaged or injured.

4. Massage:

Ayurvedic treatment for nerve damage addresses not only the affected nerves but also surrounding muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Over time, these tissues may become inflamed due to continued friction, causing pain and limiting movement. Applying warmth before rubbing sore or stiff muscles helps make them more pliable. While cooling massage oils can reduce inflammation and pain

5. Panchakarma:

Perhaps the most important step in Ayurvedic treatment for drop foot due to nerve damage is panchakarma. A cleansing treatment that serves to remove toxins from your system. Toxins can compromise nervous system function and increase inflammation (which also increases nerve irritation). By eliminating toxins you can help your body restore proper balance allowing it to heal itself.

6. Strengthen Muscle Tissue:

Several herbs help to strengthen muscle tissue. These can be combined to create paste of made into a tincture. This is applied topically or taken in powder form as part of your daily diet. Ayurvedic herbs like brahmi ( Bacopa monnieri ), bhallataka ( Centella Asiatica ) and shilajit are able to nourish the tissue surrounding nerve tissues, encouraging them to heal.