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"I Keep Tripping Over My Feet. Is This Peripheral Neuropathy?"

Brandt R Gibson, DPM
Podiatrist, Neuropathy Doctor, Father of 11 and Founder of Mountain West Foot & Ankle Institute
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Walking Man

John, a patient of mine (name changed), presented to our office in American Fork, Utah complaining of tripping over his own feet.  Although he had no injuries from these falls, it was very concerning to him.  He says he fell three times over the last month from just catching his feet.  In fact, it didn't seem to relate to the walking surface, the shoes he was wearing or even the activity being performed.  It did often involve the inability to see where he was stepping.  His question was similar to a question that may be in your mind, "Is this related to my neuropathy?"

Whether you know you have neuropathy (or peripheral neuropathy as it is more commonly called) or just are starting to notice changes in falling, or tripping.  The truth is, peripheral neuropathy can lead to falls. In fact, it has been documented as a common reason for falling, loss of balance, or even difficulty climbing stairs.  If you can't feel your feet, you can't feel the walking surface and therefore can fall.

What is it like?

Everybody has had the sensation of "falling" after missing a step, or even tripped "up the steps" when you catch the end of a stair.  Now think about that sensation every step or whenever stepping to the floor.  Since you don't have proprioception, you will have the inablity to feel where the foot is or when it is coming in contact with the ground.  The sensation is that it didn't.  When you remove the other "keys" to maintaining your balance: eyes and ears, you fall.  Each time you fall, you increase the risk of injury.

 

What is Proprioception?

Proprioception is a complex word meaning the ability to differentiate amounts of pressure to the foot.  As you lean to the right side, the right foot will get increased pressure.  This also occurs as you lean forward or backward.  The mind then informs the muscles that something needs to change to keep you from falling.  Again, if the signal doesn't get sent from the feet, you will most likely fall.

 

Now What?

If you have these symptoms, whether your balance is related or unrelated to neuropathy, tripping and falling is very dangerous.  There are treatments available and sometimes simple physical therapy sessions can be scheduled to help you get your balance back.  I recommend you look into these options and stop falling.

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