Not every cause of back pain is as obvious as the discomfort you feel from lifting a heavy box or sleeping in an awkward position. While most doctors initially check for structural issues in or around the spine itself, this isn’t always the actual source of the pain. An often-overlooked source of potential back pain is the feet. Specifically, it’s the way ligaments and tendons support the tarsal and metatarsal bones to form the foot’s arch that may affect the spine.
Changes in Posture
Feet aren’t designed to be entirely flat. The purpose of a foot’s arch is to evenly distribute weight. If this distribution of weight isn’t even, it can affect other parts of the body above the feet, including the ankles, legs, and lower back. Some people are born with fallen arches that may contribute to issues with posture later in life. Other times, the foot’s tendons and ligaments loosen with age and cause changes in the foot’s structure. When your arches fall or weaken, your posture automatically changes.
Changes in Gait
Structural changes to arches are sometimes subtle enough to only affect posture slightly. However, tendons and ligaments may eventually weaken enough to change how you walk, run, or stand, which can put added pressure on your spine. Changes to your gait may affect:
- Flexors, hamstrings, rotators, and other muscles that support your spine
- The sciatic nerve that runs from your lower back on down
- The piriformis muscle in the buttocks area
Pressure Shifted Directly to the Spine
In some cases, weak or non-supportive arches can cause pressure from your daily movements to be channeled directly to your spine. This added pressure may contribute to the irritation of nerve roots around your lower or mid-spine. While the cervical spine is rarely affected, it’s still possible to have upper back or neck pain related to an imbalance that starts in the feet. Back pain related to arches may produce symptoms such as:
- Muscle weakness or muscle spasms
- Numbness or tingling sensations (due to nerve impingement or compression)
- Lower back pain
What Are the Treatment Options?
Back pain that results from issues with foot arches can be treated in several ways. If the main source of discomfort is your arches, over-the-counter or custom orthotics (foot/ankle supports) may restore your alignment. If your spine or its adjacent nerves and discs have been affected by arch issues, treatment may involve:
- Anti-inflammatory drugs or muscle relaxants
- Massage therapy or non-surgical decompression techniques
- Minimally invasive spine surgery to relieve nerve pressure or correct damage to spinal discs
Even if you don’t have arch issues, the shoes you wear on your feet can also affect your spine. Things like excessively high heels or shoes that don’t provide sufficient support can contribute to added stress on the lower spine and its supporting muscle groups. Whether or not your feet are involved, persistent back pain that’s not responding to self-care or going away on its own should be reason enough to check in with your doctor or see a Beverly Hills spine surgeon.
If you are experiencing pain in your back that won’t go away, get in touch with The Spine Institute to determine if you need spinal fusion. Beverly Hills patients can rely on Dr. Hyun Bae and his team of expert surgeons to help them find effective relief for their chronic back pain. Call 310-828-7757 today to schedule an in-person evaluation.