How Your Feet and Ankles are Connected to Chronic Lower Back Pain
Lower back pain is a problem that affects many people. It is estimated that, in Ireland, 80% of adults will suffer with back pain at some point in their lives (https://www.independent.ie/regionals/goreyguardian/lifestyle/eighty-per-cent-of-adults-suffer-back-pain-some-point-27348692.html ). It can be a chronic problem that can seriously lower your quality of life.
But lower back pain is often misunderstood. Rather than being caused by strain on the site of the discomfort, lower back pain is usually brought on by postural and behavioural problems. Chronic low back pain requires an holistic approach, looking closely at habits and lifestyle, and making alterations to ease symptoms and allow your body to recover.
What can cause lower back pain?
There are potentially many contributing factors to low back pain.
Repeating activities that put strain on your lower back area can easily lead to back pain.
Recurring behaviours that are damaging for the lower back can lead to ongoing and severe pain. Those who sit at desks all day are at risk of developing chronic back pain because the human body was not designed to be so inactive. This lack of movement also gives a greater risk of obesity. Those who are overweight are at greater risk of low back pain than those who maintain a healthy weight, simply because their body is put under more pressure.
This is perhaps the biggest underlying cause of low back pain and encapsulates all the problems listed above. Your back is closely connected to the whole of the rest of your body, and if things aren’t lining up and working together correctly, your back is often the first place you will feel it.
Back health from the ground up
In particular, good back health starts from the ground up. Foot problems are a common underlying cause of low back pain.
Mechanical problems in the feet and ankles cause tension and friction in all of the structures that sit above them. The ankles, knees, hips, shoulders and spinal joints will eventually experience pain or become injured if the issues in the feet and ankles are not corrected.
There are many conditions of the feet that can lead to pain in the upper body through causing pain and misalignment.
Heel pain and tenderness is the main symptom of plantar fasciitis. This foot pain tends to become worse as the day progresses, and particularly after long periods of standing.
The condition is the result of overstretching the plantar fascia ligament, an overuse injury. It can be caused by obesity, ageing, walking barefoot on hard surfaces, or simple overuse. And poor fitting shoes are a common culprit.
In severe cases surgery may be needed to detach the plantar fascia from the heel bone. But in most cases, wearing proper shoes, and doing exercises to strengthen the lower leg muscles, will reduce pain and resolve the problem.
This is a condition related to plantar fasciitis. Heel spurs are a bony bump that protrudes from the bottom of your heel, where the heel bone connects to the plantar fascia. Most people don’t realise they have the foot condition until they seek help for heel pain.
A heel spur can’t be cured, but can be removed with surgery. However it is usually recommended to relieve pressure on the area, and treat it similarly to plantar fasciitis in order to relieve pain.
Athlete’s foot is a fungal infection that causes itching, soreness, and a burning sensation in the feet. This persistent discomfort in the feet is one of the risk factors for developing low back pain, as it is likely to throw your whole body off balance and stop you moving naturally and comfortably.
Athlete’s foot is usually caused by sweaty feet, often the result of wearing tight shoes. The fungal infection quickly spreads to surrounding tissues, giving an itchy, scaly rash, as well as pain and damage to the toenails.
You will need an anti-fungal medication to treat athlete’s foot problems, and you should seek to prevent further instances by:
- keeping feet dry and clean
- wear natural materials such as cotton socks next to the skin
- do not walk barefoot in shared hygiene facilities
- avoid wearing poor fitting shoes
Claw foot, also known as claw toe, is a prime cause of back pain, as well as foot pain. Often mistaken for hammer toe or mallet toe, claw toe can be hereditary, caused by ill-fitting shoes, muscle imbalances or a symptom of neurological disorders.
With this foot problem, your toe bends downward, causing an abnormal claw-like shape. The toe joint points towards the sole of your foot, making it difficult to walk or run.
The condition usually affects the end and middle joint of the four smaller toes in your foot. At first, they will simply experience stiffness, but in the later stages they will become completely stiff and require surgery.
Claw toe can be hereditary, but can also be caused by wearing shoes that don’t fit properly, rheumatoid arthritis, spinal cord tumours, or nerve damage due to alcoholism. In the early stages, potentially before diagnosis, claw toe would certainly cause a lot of lower back pain.
One of the most common foot problems, ingrown toenails develop when the sides of the toenail grow into the surrounding skin. The big toe is often affected.
Ingrown toenails are commonly caused by badly fitting shoes or poor nail maintenance. An ingrown toenail will usually cause limping, and the unbalanced distribution of weight is then likely to give you pain in your back.
Similar to claw toe, hammer toe affects the foot joints, in particular the middle joint of the toe. It causes a deformity that makes the toes look like hammers.
Hammer toe is often caused by wearing high heels too often, or other foot problems such as bunions, flat feet, or arthritis. It can also be prompted if the big toe is shorter than the second toe.
Foot problems like this can cause chronic pain and will likely require physical therapy. Appropriate foot wear and a good foot care routine can go a long way towards preventing back pain from foot problems such as this.
Plantar warts and foot blisters
Plantar warts are small, rough growths on the feet. Because they grow on the soles, they are often pushed inward as a person walks, causing discomfort which can then be transferred throughout the body as you seek to avoid pain, start walking in an unbalanced way, and cause muscle strain in your upper legs and back.
Similarly, foot blisters, although often seen as a minor problem, can throw your whole body out of balance when you automatically avoid putting pressure on a certain area. Taking appropriate pain relievers and looking for the causes of your foot problems is a key step towards solving your back pain.
How can I treat my low back pain?
The correct treatment for your low back pain will depend on the root cause of your symptoms. A qualified physical therapist or doctor should give you a proper diagnosis.
Once you have been properly assessed, there will be a range of treatments available to you, depending on your problem. Initial treatments might include gentle options such as massage therapy or a cold compress to reduce inflammation. From there it may be a case of introducing more serious pain relievers such as cortisone injections, and undergoing courses of physical therapy.
If the shoe fits…
One of the simplest but most common causes of back pain is wearing shoes that do not fit properly. Many people do not realise how closely connected your feet and ankles are to the health of your back. But if you wear ill fitting shoes, sooner or later you will develop a foot condition that affects the health of your back.
Are you looking for help with your low back pain?
Visit Foot Solutions today. Our friendly team of specialist foot experts will be able to assess the health of your feet, gauging whether foot problems or your current footwear could be part of the problem.
At Foot Solutions we believe great health starts from the feet up. We can offer a range of solutions, from simple foot pads to full orthopaedic footwear bespoke to your needs. Correctly fitting footwear is a health care essential, easing muscle strain and helping treat other symptoms throughout the body, including back pain.
Don’t let a bad back become worse – stop into Foot Solutions today.