Are Your Feet Causing You Back Pain?

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About 31 million Americans experience low back pain at any given time and about 80 percent of people will experience low back pain at some point in their lives, according to the American Chiropractic Association. Injuries and poor posture are two familiar causes of back pains; however, foot mechanics and foot pain also can cause back pain.

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Kinetic Chain

We all remember the old song about the leg bone’s connected to the thighbone and the thigh bone’s connected to the hip bone. Those connections are important. Often the pain will work down the kinetic chain. When I’m talking kinetic chain, I’m talking that ankle, the knee, and then the hip on that same side.

So, for example, suppose you turn your ankle during your run. Over the next couple of weeks, you’re limping. Now the way you’re walking is changed, it’s not your normal walk or what we’d call your normal gait. And then when your gait’s all curved, your hips are moving differently. Sometimes those muscles don’t respond well to that. They’ll tighten up. They’ll cause the hip to lock up now that it’s not functioning properly. Once the hip functions improperly, your back is affected.

A Chain Reaction

The pain reaction, however, doesn’t stop there. Once the hip stops functioning, you put weight on the knee a little differently. That will cause knee pain and IT-band tension, which, in turn, will cause the hip flexors to tighten up. The hip flexors tightening up, in turn, causes more knee pain. So, your body has changed; it’s trying to adapt to this new gait, but that’s not really what we want. We want to get rid of the limp. We want to go back to our normal gait, normal walking, and then a lot of times that can restore a lot of the function and get rid of that pain.

Arches or Flat Feet

The way we stand, and the shape of our feet also can affect our back pain. When we talk about the shape of the feet, we’re really talking about the arch — whether we have an arch or a flat foot.

Sometimes when the arch is flat, it rolls the foot in. Now, you walk more on the inside of the foot. Your foot rolling in is probably going to cause some inner knee pain or medial knee pain. You’ll be putting a little bit more compression on that inner knee. You can walk in different ways. If you’re walking on the arch that just collapsed, that’s inversion. E-version is when you’re walking on the outer portion of the foot.

Effects on the Spine

In the case of the running injury where you rolled your ankle, the change in gait will cause temporary pain in the back. While you may need some treatment to resolve it, it likely will be temporary. But if you’ve now got a collapsed inner arch, and you’re starting to walk differently from here on out, you’ve got a chronic case. Untreated or undiagnosed, it could definitely become some early degeneration because it’s not functioning properly. At Smerglia Chiropractic, we diagnose and treat foot conditions and recommend ways you can treat and prevent issues at home.

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  • Shoes. I always recommend arch support. You want a nice tennis shoe with arch support on it. Or in the summer season, you want flip flops with the arch support on them to keep that foot arch up because that’ll prevent you from collapsing in and altering your gait.
  • Stretching exercises. Sometimes the calf or Achilles tendon will tighten up, which will tighten up the plantar fasciitis, which is on the bottom of the foot. You’ll want to loosen that up.
  • Strength exercises. Several exercises can help. For one, you can take your foot through the range of motion drawing the ABCs while you are sitting at a desk.

Plantar Fasciitis

Plantar fasciitis is often a major factor in back pain and Smerglia Chiropractic treats that, too. It stems from the gastrocnemius or the calf, and that gives rise to the Achilles tendon, which comes under the foot and gives rise to plantar fasciitis. We do things to loosen up the calf and Achilles’ tendon and adjust the foot and that can resolve a lot of issues, as well.

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The Reverse is Also True

Spine issues also can sometimes cause foot pain. For example, suppose you have pain in your right lower back; you may be leaning to the left to find relief from the pain. That lean is called an antalgic lean.

If you lean to the left while walking, that also will throw that gait off, throw the weight into the knee and ankles off. When things are off, and we compromise, we alter the weight distribution in the lower extremities.

When someone comes in with pain, we first address the primary issue and then the secondary one so that they can be made whole again. Give us a call at 330-928-2000 or contact us online to make an appointment. We are your Cuyahoga Falls chiropractor, and we treat the whole person.


American Chiropractic Association: Back Pain Facts and Statistics

Descript: Smerglia-Feet and Back Pain-Video Interview

Foot Health Facts: That Pain in Your Back Could be Linked to Your Feet

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