Wake up, feet
April 2, 2012 8:19 AM   Subscribe

More often lately, one of my feet seems to forget what it's doing and shuffles, causing me to stumble and almost fall. Is this normal or do I have a larger problem?

I work as a CNA at a nursing home and do quite a bit of walking during the day, on a completely flat floor with nothing in my way. Lately it seems more often that one of my feet (I think this happens with both feet but I'm not sure) forgets what it's doing, shuffles the step, and I have to quickly right myself before falling. Seems to happen once or twice an hour at least, possibly more. And yes, while sober.

I have no idea how normal this is or whether it's indicative of some other body process going wrong. Is this something I should see a doctor about, or am I worrying too much and just noticing it more since I walk so much? I'm a 41-year old guy and have no other symptoms that I know of.
posted by waraw to Health & Fitness (15 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
You should see a neurologist - I believe this is called "foot drop" and it can have all kinds of causes from the rare and rather scary (progressive neurological disease) to the comparatively benign (pinched nerves, slipped disks). Obviously, the benign causes are far more common.
posted by Frowner at 8:21 AM on April 2, 2012 [13 favorites]

This might seem like a silly question, but have you recently started wearing a different kind of shoe? I have this problem, but only when I wear one particular pair of shoes.

Good luck figuring this out!
posted by lucy.jakobs at 8:31 AM on April 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

This is not normal. See a doctor!
posted by chickenmagazine at 8:48 AM on April 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yes, see a doctor. It may be something mechanical, in which case you'll want a podiatrist, or it may be something neurological, in which case you'll want a neurologist, but either way you should ask someone about this.
posted by Faint of Butt at 9:01 AM on April 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

See a neurologist. This could be caused by so many things, ranging from super minor to super awful.
posted by elizardbits at 9:03 AM on April 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

You should see a neurologist. For the past few months I've been experiencing issues with my left hand and forearm that were very scary, and it turned out to be caused by the way I sit!

There were all sort of scary conditions that could have caused it, but, as our family GP said, it's always good to look for the simplest solution first. He also mentioned that the online resources for researching various illnesses are great, but what the Mayo Clinic etc ought to do is include more information about "likelihood" of a particular condition.

For example, you may be experiencing back issues that are pinching a nerve. As a CNA you're lifting people all day, and you're standing and walking all day. So this could be a likely explanation.

But see a neurologist.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:12 AM on April 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

Physical therapist here. You should absolutely see a neurologist. This could be something benign, or something quite scary, and there is only one way to know which it is. If you were my patient, with new onset foot drop, I would send you straight to a neurologist.
posted by jennyjenny at 9:41 AM on April 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

Thanks for the answers. No, no change in footwear. I'd hoped to make it another sixteen months through nursing school without health insurance, but I'll try to make arrangements soon.
posted by waraw at 10:16 AM on April 2, 2012

Neurologist. The sooner, the better. Do not delay.
posted by VikingSword at 1:32 PM on April 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you call the doctor's office and tell them upfront that you do not have insurance they will often give you a discount if you pay at the time of the visit. My last visit cost about $80. And then you need to tell the doctor so that a bunch of unnecessary tests aren't done. They will work with you. For example, I needed lab work done and they sent me to a local company that did the whole panel for $30. I feel your uninsured pain!
posted by futz at 3:25 PM on April 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

I also walked away debt free from a $20,000+ from an emergency surgery. The ER nurse told me to wait for my first bill and then immediately call the billing department. They sent me some forms to fill out and then wrote my debt off. I felt really bad about it but relieved too. The US healthcare system is messed up. I figure that all the years that I did have insurance I helped pay for others too. Doctors and nurses do want to help you and they know the loopholes. Just go! I know from family experience that foot drop can be very serious. Good luck waraw!
posted by futz at 4:47 PM on April 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

I have that happen repeatedly when I'm stressed, to the point that I will stumble and have to hold on to things. At what point, I was screened for MS and a bunch of other things. It turned out to be related to the stress and exhaustion of rare side-effects I was having to an IUD. The neurologist will probably do a family history and a bunch of simple tests, like look this direction while I poke here, and then order some scans and maybe bloodwork. It's not invasive or scary. While you're waiting for an appointment, it'd be good to keep a symptom diary - does this happen on days when you're working in a particular ward, or when you've slept badly, etc.

One thing that really helped me when we were trying to figure it out was a doctor who said that if it was something bad, I would probably have a bunch more odd symptoms. Foot drop on its own is very rarely a bad sign.
posted by viggorlijah at 7:44 PM on April 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

Waraw, are you relatively new to your work environment, picking up speed with experience, and working on high friction, unglued, industrial carpet tiles? Does your foot come to a jarring halt, from speed, only in the work environment?

If you answered yes on all counts ...

chances are you're not lifting your feet high enough in your stride to reliably plant the heel of your foot first; the ball of your foot hits first like a brake; the soles of your shoes are a bad match for the carpet; and you're being brought undone by the smallest of undulations in those "flat" obstacle-free carpeted corridors. Occupational hazard.

New shoes and less haste could save you a trip to the neurologist, and a hernia, to boot.
posted by de at 4:18 AM on April 3, 2012

De, no on all counts.
posted by waraw at 5:53 AM on April 3, 2012

New info: mothers side has history of familial palsy. Doc appt today to narrow down between podiatrist, ortho or neuro.
posted by waraw at 6:06 AM on April 3, 2012

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