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Foot Health and Back Pain

Everybody seems to have back pains… If we’re to judge from the number of persons who call seeking help, or those who come in for consultations and have back issues which they perceive they have to live with, and so are nonchalant about it.

Often persons call or e-mail, self-diagnosing what they “know” is wrong. “My neighbour had the same Degenerative Spineproblem and she did massage and it went”; or “my good friend sister took an injection and some tablets and it helped a whole lot, she barely has any pain now”! Don’t assume that what they have is what you have, symptoms for different ailments can be similar; in any case, if it is indeed the same ailment, it doesn’t mean the same things would be recommended for you.

Because the feet are part of your body’s super structure, if you’re having problems with back pain, shin splints, knees, or hips … look to your feet. Although these ailments may seem totally unrelated to one another, they can sometimes be linked to problems that start with your feet and how they’re built.

About the Diagnosis
It’s important to know whether the cause of the pain is a problem in one’s lower back, or if it started in the feet. So see a physician or specialist for a complete diagnosis of potential lower back conditions that may be causing the leg and/or foot pain. Once this is done, then treatment options can be determined.

For example, if a nerve root in the lower back is irritated or compressed, this lower back condition, which may or may not cause any actual lower back pain, can cause pain to radiate along the sciatic nerve and into the foot.

Common Foot Pain Symptoms Related to the Lower Back
Depending on the lower back diagnosis, specific types of foot pain symptoms and other symptoms may include:
Restricted ability to bring the foot up (heel walk) – This is characterised by an inability to bring the foot upward, and may be accompanied by numbness in the middle lower leg and foot. Heel walk may occur if one of the spinal nerve roots in the lower back that innervates the sciatic nerve is affected.
Foot heaviness or weakness (foot drop) – Often originating from a spinal nerve root in the lower back, foot drop refers to a weak or heavy feeling that makes it difficult or impossible to flex the ankle and bring the front of the foot up. Foot drop due to a L5 nerve root problem will usually also produce pain that radiates down the outside of the calf, and over the top of the foot to the big toe.
Difficulty walking on tiptoes – Bottom of foot pain may occur if the sciatic nerve’s S1 spinal nerve root is affected. Typical symptoms of pain in the bottom of the foot may include weakness in the muscle, making it hard to walk on the tiptoes, raise the heel off the ground, or even complete everyday activities like walking or driving.

When you walk, you put the force of as much as five times your body weight on each foot. If the foot doesn’t absorb that shock or redistribute it properly, you can develop problems elsewhere.

Often this occurs in people who have hyperpronated feet, also called “flat feet,” because the arch appears to be flattened and closer to the ground. If you have flat feet, your feet tend to roll inward when you walk or run. That extra motion creates secondary stresses farther up in your legs, podiatrists say. Because of the excessive foot motion, the muscles on the inside of your leg must work harder to pull your foot up. When you use these muscles excessively, particularly in running, shin splints can occur.

Another foot problem is hypersupination, the feet are rolled outward with what seems to be a rather high arch. Hypersupination causes stress to muscles on the outside of the leg. Either flat feet or hypersupination also can lead to problems in the hips and lower back.

Lower Back Conditions/Causes of Foot Pain
Sensations of the skin in the foot and back such as pins-and-needles, burning, tingling, numbness, itching or anything similar in feeling are deemed as abnormal nerve sensations, called paresthesia.

Cause of Paresthesia
Paresthesia usually results from some type of nerve damage. This may have been caused by entrapment, severe pressure or nerve diseases. Even though nerve damage is usually the main cause, irritation to the nerve causing inflammation, such as rheumatoid arthritis or carpal tunnel syndrome, can also be a common source.

This ailment is generally the result of poor circulation in the limbs of older individuals, often referred to as peripheral vascular disease.

History of Paresthesia
Paresthesia is most common in individuals with fibromyalgia, even though there isn’t always nerve damage present in patients with fibromyalgia. However, it may be associated with peripheral neuropathy, multiple sclerosis, chemotherapy drugs and/or migraines.

Treatment Options
Age, other existing problems/symptoms, time-frame suffering, stages of ailments, and many other factors must be considered in determining treatment options.
Intense massaging of the affected area in the foot and back may help temporarily. However, persistent sensations need appropriate treatment. Treating parasthesia depends on the correct diagnosis of the underlying cause.

There are times when paresthesia isn’t painful, and doesn’t need to be treated. But when it’s painful, medical attention is needed, generally by a neurologist. Any abnormal sensation needs to be checked out, because continued nerve damage could cause permanent loss of feeling or foot numbness.

For some ailments arch supports (orthotics) and stretches/exercises are required. Remember… check your physician or specialist first, and then explore therapy.

Your feet mirror your general health . . . cherish them!

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