The feet are our foundation. Problems with your feet can affect your entire body, from your legs to your back, your neck, and even your shoulders. The entire human body is connected, which is why one affliction can easily affect a seemingly unrelated part of the body, like the back.
Back pain is a very common complaint for many people and one of the most common reasons why people see their doctor or even miss work. Back pain is also one of the common causes of disability worldwide. In fact, most people will experience some type of back pain at least once in their life. As much as 80 percent of United States citizens complain of back pain. There are many causes of back pain including arthritis, sports injuries, nerve and muscular problems, poor posture, weak abdominal muscles, pregnancy, degenerative disc disease, etc.
Your feet store one quarter of the bones in your body. Our bodies are like a chain, with one link – or bone – connecting from one joint to the next. Think about what would happen if the first link in the chain was out of position. The point at which it meets the next link would eventually affect that link, then the entire chain. That’s what happens when we have foot pain. If we experience pain when walking normally, we would automatically change the way we walk to ease the pain. For example, you have arthritis, and your big toe joint hurts, you will change your gait (the way you walk) to avoid bending the joint and causing pain. 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, 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 work with each other.
Cartilage in the joints can wear down, ligaments and tendons can be stressed beyond their normal range, and early arthritis can set in.
When you pronate, or roll your feet in toward the heels, you tend to lean forward, which predisposes you to more low-back pain and aggravates any previous back injury. When walking or standing, rotating your feet to the outside often eases intermittent low back pain because it rotates your hips backward and shifts your center of gravity. Walking this way may help the back but it is not good for the feet and may cause foot pain and sprained ankles. Standing in a more upright posture will also give your back muscles a break. But, the best way to properly reduce the pressure on the spine and back muscles is to correct and balance your feet.
Since the feet are the foundation of the body, shoes play a big role in making sure that this foundation is stable, ensuring that all joints work well together and are pain-free. Wearing poorly-constructed shoes or shoes that are not for your foot type can cause a significant amount of foot and maybe even back pain. Shoes that can cause back pain are extremely high heels, especially the pencil-thin ones that don’t offer much support.
On the other hand, wearing properly-fitted supportive shoes can put your feet in balance and improve the alignment of the rest of your body – helping you reduce back pain. People who may have flat feet or high arches may need more structural support in their shoes. Accommodative inserts, braces, cushions/pads and/or orthotics can also be used to address a particular foot type and help relieve foot and back pain problems.
If your feet or ankles are causing you pain, don’t ignore them. It can lead to or aggravate back pain. Contact your podiatrist for an evaluation and they can help fix the problem from the foundation – your feet. Your back (and knees and hips) will thank you.
• For more information on foot conditions, visit www.apma.org, healthcentral.com, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. To see a podiatrist, visit Bahamas Foot Centre, Rosetta Street, or telephone 325-2996 for an appointment at Bahamas Surgical Associates Centre, Hilltop Medical, or call 394-5820 for an appointment. You can also visit Lucayan Medical Centre in Freeport, Grand Bahama, or telephone 373-7400 for an appointment.