The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

Your Feet and Your Back Pain

Posted by on Wednesday, September 12th, 2012

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Remember when we talked about how foot problems can cause knee pain? Well, now that you know that, I bet you’re not surprised to hear that feet can also cause back pain.

You might have two reactions to this news, depending on who you are. If you’re like most people, you probably would  roll your eyes and think, “What doesn’t cause back pain? Spines. So darn fragile.” If you’re a foot, you might scream, “Fine! Go ahead! Blame us for everything! We’re the root of all evil!” To the former I would say, “Yes, I know, backs are quite literally a pain in the…back.” To the latter I would say, “Sorry, foot, accept it–with great power comes great responsibility.”

And our feet do have great power. They’re the base for the rest of our body, and every step we take rolls through them. Therefore, when the feet are in trouble, other parts of our bodies, like those notoriously cranky backs, are also in trouble.

Any foot ailment that causes us to balance or move awkwardly on your feet can affect your back, but there are three basic foot issues that can cause your back trouble.

Flat Feet The foot normally has an arch at midfoot that helps make your foot more stable and absorbs pressure when you take a step. Flat feet, then, are feet without an arch. Some people have flat feet before they even take their first steps, while others may have their arches collapse due to injuries or wear and tear. When you don’t have an arch to support and stabilize your body, your back has to compensate, which puts additional stress on your back muscles.

Overpronation When you take a step, your foot naturally rolls inward a little, transferring your weight from the outside of your foot to the inside. However, some people overpronate, rolling too far inward so their feet almost bend down at the ankle. When that happens, the whole body’s alignment is thrown out of whack, including your back. That puts a strain on your back, as it now sits awkwardly atop your awkwardly angled in hips, knees, and feet. People who have flat feet (see above) often have a problem with overpronation.

Oversupination Like pronation, supination is a natural part of your step–a slight roll from the inside of your foot to the outer part. Like pronation, though, some people go too far, that is oversupinate–their feet roll too far outward, bending their ankles downward. Again, that throws your body out of alignment, putting stress and strain on your back.

So what can you do if you have lower back pain and suspect it’s your feet? You should see a podiatrist at The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine (212.996.1900) to find out what your feet are doing to cause your back pain and to put a treatment plan into place.

While treatment will vary according to each person’s feet and problems, there are three fairly common solutions for back pain caused by flat feet, overpronation, or oversupination.

  • Orthotics These are inserts that you can slide into your shoe to provide extra arch support and stability. You can buy one size fits all types in any drugstore, but it’s more helpful to have your podiatrist custom-fit your feet for orthotics that will directly target your particular foot problems.
  • Gait analysis Your podiatrist or, if you’re a runner, a running coach, can analyze how you walk and run and then show you how to correct the movement problem that’s causing your lower back problems.
  • Stretching You can help relieve your back from the strain and misalignment that comes from your feet by stretching. Livestrong recommends arching your back (sitting or standing), holding that for ten to fifteen seconds, and then relaxing; twisting to one side of your chair and holding that pose for about ten to fifteen seconds, then switching to the other side. Try these a few times a day–they’re perfect if you’re stuck at a desk all day.

It would be nice if our foot problems stuck to themselves, but unfortunately our feet play such a big part in our daily lives that they can cause trouble all over our bodies. So next time you’re wondering how you can solve your back problems, take a look at your feet!

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If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports MedicineDr. Josef J. GeldwertDr. Katherine Lai, Dr. Ryan Minara and Dr. Mariola Rivera have helped thousands of people get back on their feet. Unfortunately, we cannot give diagnoses or treatment advice online. Please make an appointment to see us if you live in the NY metropolitan area or seek out a podiatrist in your area.