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Tillman & Associates, Attorneys at Law

Foot Drop: Resulting from a lower back injury at work

Peroneal nerve injuries can result in a complex condition known as "foot drop." Someone with drop foot has difficulty lifting his or her toes when trying to walk and may experience pain, weakness, numbness and even an odd, high-stepping walk in order to compensate and avoid tripping and falling.

It isn't uncommon for the condition to be caused by traumatic workplace injuries. There are several types of injuries to the lower back and spine that can lead to drop foot:

-- Herniated discs in the lower, or lumbar, region of the spine can put pressure on the big sciatic nerve bundle that runs down the leg and into the foot. The nerves may also develop inflammation. Pressure on the weakened disc often causes additional pain along with the general foot drop.

-- Spondylolisthesis is a lower back condition that occurs when one vertebra slips forward above the vertebra directly below it. This results in a pinched nerve which can run all the way into the foot.

-- Fractures to the vertebrae in the lower back or lacerations from trauma that run deep enough to hit the nerves can also both cause foot drop.

Unfortunately for the average construction or industrial worker, back injuries remain far too common -- which means that conditions like foot drop are also common.

It's important for workers to realize that nerve damage doesn't always present its full range of symptoms immediately after the initial accident. You could be hit in the lower back and think that you feel okay after a day or two of rest, ice packs and a little ibuprofen. However, you can then learn that your leg or legs are growing steadily weaker and you're having a harder time lifting your toes from the ground when you walk.

That's one of the most important reasons that you can have to report workplace injuries -- even if they seem minor at the time and you don't feel seriously hurt -- as soon as they happen. Workers' compensation can help you cover treatment costs for the condition and help replace any income you lose as a result of your condition. However, your employer may try to deny the claim if you can't connect your condition back to a specific on-the-job injury.

If you're having difficulty collecting benefits due to foot drop, an attorney can provide more information on your legal options.

Source: Johns Hopkins Medicine, "Peroneal Nerve Injury (Foot Drop)," accessed Feb. 01, 2017

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