Can Foot and Back Pains be Linked?

Of course! A number of times each day I stress this to patients. If your lower back has been hurting, and you do not remember doing anything to injure it, the source of your pain could be your feet. Foot pain is something that many people try to ignore. After all, doesn’t everyone’s feet hurt now and then? But if foot pain is something that has been with you for quite a while, it could be causing problems in your ankles, knees, hips and even your back.

We often don’t think about it, but our body parts are linked. Therefore when we have foot pains, the normal way of walking is painful, so we instinctively change our walking pattern. Say you have arthritis and your big toe joint hurts, so you change your gait to avoid bending the joint when you walk. Changing your gait, changes the mechanics of your ankle joint, eventually causing ankle pain. This change in your walking pattern can also affect the whole chain of your lower body from the ankle, to the knee, to the hip and then to the lower back.

When foot pain or a foot deformity causes you to change the way you walk, it changes the way the bones of all those other joints move with each other. Cartilage in the joints can wear down, ligaments and tendons can be stretched beyond their normal range, and arthritis can set in.

With the entire human body being connected, one affliction can easily affect a seemingly unrelated part of the body. Often times, pain and discomfort don’t directly relate to flat feet, but rather to how flat feet affect your gait, (your stride or the way you walk). Some people have one leg that’s shorter than the other, (usually because of scoliosis, an unusually curved spine); this would affect their gait and affect their feet and spine. That can affect their ribs, internal organ locations, and how their bones are structured all over their bodies.

Foot Movement

The way you walk is dependent on the shape of your feet as well as the shoes you wear. These factors can affect your entire body over the years. For example, if you wear unsupportive high heels every day, your feet become susceptible to hammertoes, bunions, calluses, and corns. The rest of your body may develop joint problems, back problems, stiffness, fatigue, and strain. Wearing supportive shoes distributes weight evenly when you land, while encouraging a stable gait. People with flat feet often walk on the sides of their feet, or have balance issues, so it’s essential to wear supportive shoes.

How Feet Affect the Legs

Your feet are connected to your legs by tendons and ligaments, some of which connect the arch of your foot to the back of your calf. Problems with your feet can affect your lower legs because of this, but the way you walk may also play a part.

The human body is pretty amazing, and can be influenced or manipulated. Consistently wearing high heels or shoes that are too tight can cause other less desired types of reshaping, like hammertoes, claw toes, bunions, and corns. Similarly, the way a person walks, can affect the way the feet, legs, and back function.

Some milder problems include:

  • Stiffness
  • Soreness
  • Weakness in the muscles
  • Leg pain
  • Plantar fasciitis

Prolonged or continuous strain can cause permanent problems.

 Feet and Back Pain

Everything is connected, which is why your feet can cause so many problems all over your body. If you have a foot deformity, you subconsciously change the way you walk, to avoid pain. Have you ever noticed that if one of your toes hurts, you avoid hurting it more, while you take each step by limping or walking differently on that foot? Usually this is temporary, but for someone with a foot deformity, this adjustment in gait can be permanent.

Flat feet in particular can cause misalignment with the ankle, causing joints to connect differently, which can cause misalignment in the knee joint. That can affect your hips, which also affects the way you walk. That affects the spine, especially your lower back. It makes sense that this could happen… our feet are actually pretty delicate, and our bodies are complex.


  •  Exercises/ Stretches

There are exercises/ stretches designed to aid with the problems you are experiencing. This is first line therapy.

  • Orthotics

These can be placed into your shoes. Though they won’t solve everyone’s foot pain problems, they are a great place to start for relieving foot pain, leg pain, and lower back pain caused by your feet.

There are a few other methods of treatment that can be utilised. Your particular medical history, inclusive of problem areas and duration, would determine what is required. If your feet or ankles are not working right, do not ignore them. See a podiatrist, your back, knees and hips will thank you.

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

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