FES (Functional Electrical Stimulation)
I have foot drop and it has got progressively worse over the last 10 years.
FES my new walking aid
Foot drop is a paralysis or muscular weakness that makes it very difficult to lift the front part of your foot and toes. It can also be called drop foot. It can cause you to drag your foot along the ground when you walk. I have been using a MuSmate for the last few years and an AFO (Ankle Foot Orthosis) for the last 15 months. This is to reduce the impact of foot drop and to improve walking. In December 2014 both of these walking aids were replaced by FES (Functional Electrical Stimulation).
My walking problems
Imagine you are about to take a step with your left foot so you lift the heel off the ground. The front of the foot can then be lifted off the ground and you can swing thr foot forward. I have foot drop in my left foot. The brain sends a signal to the foot muscles that will cause the toes and foot to be lifted off the ground. As a result of damage to the spinal cord caused by MS the message does not reach my foot. Consequently the toe drags along the ground.
I overcame the problem by using a MuSmate and an AFO. I also had to hoick up my left entire leg up using my hip because I cannot lift my leg. Very undignified, tiring and still left me vulnerable to trips and falls. In the spring of 2014 Rachael Farrell, a consultant neurologist at UCLH suggested FES to me because this will overcome my foot drop problems. At the time I was on the ASCEND trial, this was measuring mobility as a means of assessing Tysabri, the drug, to slow down the rate of progress of SPMS. The FES had to wait until I finished the trial.
The drug trial finished in September and I reached the top of the FES waiting list in late November 2014. I was then assessed for FES, the consultant and physiotherapist thought that it would help my walking. A detailed description of FES, how it works and its benefits are given in this article written by the National Clinical FES Centre. Here is another link to an article by the Birmingham Community Healthcare
FES is very simple
Small electrical impulses are used to activate paralyzed muscles by exciting the nerves leading to them.
Two self adhesive patches (electrodes) are usually placed on the skin close to the nerve supplying the muscle and over the centre of the muscle. Leads connect the electrodes to a small device that produces the impulses. When the heel of your foot is lifted off the ground an electrical impulse is sent to the electrodes. This causes the muscle to contract and the contraction lifts up the front of the foot.
To learn more about FES and similar items go to the Odstock website