Meet the expert
Alan Pearson is a Wellness Coach for MS-UK’s wellness centre, Josephs Court. Having spent over 15 years in the health and fitness industry, he has spent the last five years coaching, educating and helping people affected by multiple sclerosis and other neurological conditions.
In a seated position place your foot on a roller or tube to isolate the toes. Pull your toes up towards the knee. This will help the ankle joint.
Heel or toe rocking
This can be done in a seated or standing position (hold on if you have stability issues). Rock your foot from toe to heel. There are some exercise aids out there that can help from stability discs to heel toe rockers.
In a seated position try and circle your ankle in clockwise and anti-clockwise movements, if you can lift your leg across your opposite leg you can mobilise the ankle with your hand.
Flexibility and stretching of the lower leg muscles
These stretches can be done to help the calf muscles
Towel stretches for the calf muscles
Use a towel or resistance band over the toes and ball of foot. Hold the end of towel in both hands and pull towards the body, hold for 20 secs, release and then repeat.
Wall stretches for lower leg
Take a split stance position facing the wall, place hands on the wall and stretch out the back of the leg. You should be able to feel the stretch down the back of your calf. Now move your body weight forward and place weight over the front bent leg, you should feel the stretch in the lower portion of the leg.
To release soft tissue tension
This can be achieved with massage or the use of a foam roller, both will release muscle tension and promote blood flow.
Static cycling on upright or re-cumbent cycle
The cycling action encourages repetitive movement of the ankle, which helps mobilise the joints and builds strength in the legs.
Ankle weight resistance band
Place the band around the feet and pull it up towards the body. This is a good exercise to strengthen the muscles. If movement is limited then the use of an active or passive cycle like Medicotech’s Thera-bike is very useful in getting the legs and feet moving. In addition, the use of a Functional Electrical Stimulation (FES) cycle, such as the Cyclone technologies RT300 for the lower body can be an effective machine.
A TENS machine can help stimulate the relevant muscles, but please get advice from your doctor before using.
I would suggest getting assessed or reviewed by a physical therapist or corrective exercise coach. By assessing range of motion, muscle imbalances, muscle weakness or neural impairment you can establish an effective exercise or activity plan that will maximise your outcome and provide a more positive outlook. Then you will feel confident that the exercises you are doing are relevant because it will also help set realistic goals and expectations.
The continuity of exercise is a big thing with any neurological conditions, good movement patterns need to be established daily and re-affirmed.
Exercise can help in many ways. Whether you get involved in a local exercise group or activity centre, or look online for exercises there is a lot of information out there. It may just inspire you to make the changes needed, or at least start thinking about it.
Subscribe to New Pathways magazine today to read issue 103 and discover more information about managing the symptoms of foot drop through exercise.
Important notice: Always seek the advice of your doctor or medical professional before attempting any exercises.