Great news for those who suffer from drop foot; Ottobock, world renowned manufacturer of mobility aids, has recently launched its MyGait system.
What is drop foot?
People affected by drop foot are not able to lift the affected foot because of weakness or paralysis affecting the dorsiflexor muscles of the leg and foot. This condition has a variety of causes from MS to brain injury or stroke. Sufferers are often unable to walk very far and can become reluctant to venture out of their homes for fear of falling so much so that their quality of life is severely compromised and they may become socially isolated.
When the dorsal flexor muscles weaken, the tip of the foot drops down and this predisposes the sufferer to tripping over even small obstacles. In order to place the foot down and take a step, the leg must be swung forward from the hip. This requires a good deal of strength and often causes back pain and malpositioning.
What does MyGait offer?
On the face of it, the system sounds great. MyGait is described as a 'surface stimulator'. It lifts the foot at the correct moment during the walking cycle which improves speed of walking as well as confidence and enables the user to walk much further and with less concentration than previously. MyGait is easy to put on and adjust via a remote control device and it does not require the user to wear orthopaedic shoes.
Those using the system can regain their independence and enjoy getting out and about once again. Walking on uneven surfaces no longer becomes a no-go area and the ability to fit the device unaided further increases the all-important feeling of independence and normality.
How does it work?
The apparatus has a heel switch worn under the foot in a special sock. As the heel switch leaves the ground it communicates wirelessly to a stimulator which is positioned below the knee by a cuff. When the stimulator is activated, it triggers a nerve; the common peroneal nerve, this causes the muscles which lift the foot to move and the foot is duly lifted. The process happens so quickly it is not even noticeable. The result is a much better and more fluent gait pattern. The system also stimulates other muscle groups which further assist the sufferer with walking. The cuff can actually be fitted with one hand for ease of use.
A word of caution though as MyGait does not suit everyone and sufferers should consult their doctor or physical therapist to see if the device is right for them. Ottobock also make a mobility assistance device called, Actigait. This is an implantable drop foot stimulator which effectively goes one step further than MyGait and may be an option open to those for whom the surface stimulator is unsuitable.