Wait … Can Your Feet Make Your Back Hurt?
Indulge us for a minute while we talk a bit about a nightmare scenario for any homeowner.
(Don’t worry—this all relates back to foot care. Just stick with us.)
Let’s say you’ve got a lovely home. Maybe you just bought it, or maybe you’ve been living there for years. Doesn’t matter—it’s home, and you love the place.
But one day, you notice one of your upstairs windows sticking—and even a small visible gap around the frame. “That’s weird,” you say to yourself. Then you notice it happening with another window.
Meanwhile, some of your doors are starting to stick, too—and a few will no longer latch properly. But hey, it isn’t really affecting your quality of life too much yet. You quickly learn to forget about it.
Unfortunately, that’s not the end of your woes. Before long, even more serious signs of damage show up. Cracks running up interior walls—and even cutting through bricks on the exterior walls. Sagging floors. One day you come home from work after a long, rainy day and discover half an inch of water covering the lowest floor of your home.
Put all these symptoms together, and the primary suspect behind this disaster is clear: you’ve got a bad foundation.
Although the foundation may not be as flashy or exciting as a remodeled kitchen or bathroom, you really can’t expect your house to last without a strong and healthy one. Everything above is rooted to what’s below—and a cracked and crumbling foundation will, eventually, cause everything else to fall apart with it.
You see where this is going, don’t you?
It’s not a perfect comparison, but you can think of your feet as if they were your foundation. And when you do, some interesting parallels pop up:
- Like a building foundation, we often take our feet for granted and don’t really think about them—until they start to have problems.
- Like a building foundation, feet that are painful or unstable aren’t just “foot problems.” Over time, they spread. Instead of sticking doors and wall cracks, you might wind up with painful inflammation in your shins, knees, and yes—even in your back.
So yes, a foot problem absolutely can be the hidden cause of your back pain. In fact, it’s fairly common! Yet people are still consistently surprised when we tell them how treatment for a foot problem could be what fixes their sore hips or back.
If you want a more concrete example of how this whole process works, consider the following scenario. (It’s about feet this time, not houses!)
Say you have flat feet. Because of this, your feet—your foundation—don’t quite line up or move in an optimal way, biomechanically speaking. Your arches (to the extent that they even exist) roll too far inward when bearing weight. If you look at your feet from the back in this position, it looks like your ankles are tilted inward and your toes may be pointed outward, almost like a duck. In other words—you overpronate.
This state of affairs can produce a number of problems and complications. One of the most common is tightness in the calves, hamstrings, and Achilles tendons. Your plantar fascia (the ligament on the bottom of the foot) is at one end of a “pulley system.” A flat foot keeps it stretched out, which in turn pulls on all the attached tissues further up the leg.
Because your feet aren’t entirely stable or correctly positioned, and because they’re stretching and pulling and generally adding more stress to structures above them, these other joints and muscles need to compensate. And then structures above them need to compensate for that, and so on.
Again, it’s like the crumbling house. One day, the crack is just in the foundation. But the next, one might open up in the bedroom ceiling.
And of course, it’s not just flat feet that can cause a problem—it’s just one particular example. High arches, arthritis, bunions, other forms of foot or heel pain … any problem in your feet that can affect the way you walk or the alignment of your joints could potentially lead to pain throughout your body.
So what can you do?
Let’s keep this simple. If you’re having pain, restricted motion, or any problems with your feet—with or without pain all the way up your body—give us a call.
In addition to providing a full range of foot and ankle treatment services, we also specialize in conducting full biomechanical evaluations of your lower extremities. Even relatively small misalignments, muscle imbalances, and other issues—some inherited, others developed over time—can spiral out of control and end up making you hurt all over.
We’ll watch you walk and run carefully. We’ll shoot some videos of your legs in motion so we can review it carefully and in slow motion. If necessary, we’ll take measurements of various components of your gait and see whether there is any significant discrepancy in leg length between the left and right.
This data not only helps us make the right clinical diagnoses, but also aids us in developing the optimum treatment plan. That may include fitting custom orthotics, or even planning a reconstructive surgery.
With the right treatment option, you’ll start to feel better. Your feet will thank you—and there’s a good chance your knees, hips, and back will too!
For high quality foot and ankle care from experts who remain focused on the health of your entire body, please call the Southern California Foot & Ankle Specialists today. You can reach our office in Mission Viejo at (949) 364-9255 (WALK).