Why the Way You Walk Affects Your Back
Think about how you walk, your usual stride. Now, compare this with how you walk when either your feet or back hurt. Is your stride the same in both situations? Chances are that they are not. In many cases, back pain following a foot pain complaint is due to a change in the patient’s gait, or stride.
When your feet hurt, for any reason, your body instinctively compensates by altering the way you walk. This may mean a shift in stride, with the foot pressing more on one side than the other. Perhaps, the pain is somewhat relieved by keeping the ankle stiff throughout the step, or by leaning on one leg more than the other. These adjustments have a ripple effect throughout the rest of the body. Even by simply holding the foot or ankle in an unusual position with each step, the knee must compensate accordingly, as must the hips and lower back. These small shifts build upon each other until they have created a much larger impact, typically on the low back, resulting in excruciating pain.
Risks of Leaving Foot Pain Untreated
When left untreated, foot pain causes increased strain on the lower back, as well as every joint affected. Eventually, every portion of the spinal column will suffer from the effects similar to an overuse injury. The cartilage between the bones, ligaments, and tendons that connect the muscles and bones eventually wears down. In some patients, arthritis may eventually set in. If left untreated and allowed to progress to this point, the damage may be irreparable.
Early Intervention Is Key
At the first sign of foot pain, make an appointment to see a podiatrist. The earlier you seek intervention, the less likely you will be to have other related complications, including back pain. The pain treatment may be as simple as changing your shoes or using custom orthotic inserts. For patients with heel pain, extracorporeal shockwave therapy (ESWT) may be the most effective treatment option. For others, physical therapy combined with your podiatrist’s regular care may be the most helpful.