Question

Back Pain

How can foot problems cause back pain?

A Answers (2)

  • ARick Olderman, Physical Therapy, answered

    The feet contribute to back pain by working their way up the legs. When a foot is pronated (flatter) it causes the lower leg bones to rotate inward, which then causes the thigh bone to rotate inward, which then causes the ilium of the pelvis to rotate forward, which causes the spine on that side to be in more extension than the spine on the other side if that foot is less pronated (which is common).

    There are muscular adaptations along the way too, creating weakness, excessive lengthening, or shortness in the muscles controlling these bones. In terms of back pain, the muscles controlling the pelvis and lining the sides of the spine become short making it difficult for the pelvis and spine to return to a normal alignment. Especially if the problems creating the pain are not reversed. Over time, this breaks down other tissues in and around the spine causing pain.

    Foot pronation or supination (a higher arch) can be corrected through changing foot strike mechanics. This then can correct these adaptations occurring up the leg and in the spine.

  • AEric Olsen, Fitness, answered

    Sometimes, low-back pain can have its source in the feet. When we walk or run, we experience a shock with each footstrike that travels up from the ground through our bodies. A jogger running on level ground might experience several hundreds of pounds of shock each time his foot hits the surface; running downhill can increase this force many times over. A certain amount of this shock -- what the orthopedists refer to as "vertical load" -- is absorbed by the feet and ankles. More of this vertical load is absorbed by the muscles of the legs and hips, and ideally very little shock makes its way to the lower back and spine. 

    Misalignments such as excessive pronation or underpronation can increase the shock traveling up to the spine. The result of increased vertical loading during a walk or run is repeated, small shocks to the spine and an increased risk of muscle spasm as the muscles around the spine grow fatigued trying to absorb these shocks. This increased shock also can increase the risk of swollen or ruptured disks in those who may be prone to the problem.

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