How to know when your lower back pain is stemming from your feet!

Back pain, and more commonly lower back pain, is a common problem that generally stems from a multitude of factors. Factors including age, working environment, activity levels, types of activity, footwear, posture, etc.

This blog is going to focus on seeing whether you can relate your back pain or risk of potential back pain to some key contributing factors that stem from the feet.

Are your feet flat?

Having slightly flat feet, which is generally viewed as someone with a decreased arch profile is a common finding in people with lower back pain. Why? Because standing with your arch flattened closer to the ground means generally your shins and your hip bones rotates inwards. If you try to twist your leg in now look what happens to your low back. For the majority of you, you will find it becomes more concave. Or as for those who do Pilates on a Saturday morning know it, an anterior pelvic tilt. This anterior pelvic tilt compresses the discs in between your vertebrae causing sustained pressure the longer you’re in that position. And furthermore changes the tone of the postural muscles that try and align your spine.

Do your pronate as you run?

Before you think pronation is a bad thing… It’s not! Pronation for simplicity’s sake is the motion of “rolling in”, and it helps reduce shock in the process of moving from heel to toe during walking and running. The ideal running style for a heel runner would be to land towards the outside of their heel, pronate through the midfoot or roll into what podiatrists define as a neutral calcaneal or heel position, and then push off straight through all your toes. Pronation becomes an issue when you “roll” well past the point of neutral, causing excessive loading through your calfs, quads and glutes to try and oppose that force. Excessive strain on these muscles, especially the glutes, reduces the support around the pelvis and compromises the stability of the lower back.

On the occasion that you have a very high arch and don’t naturally pronate at all, you will find that a few methods to absorb shock when you run are:

  1. Make sure you don’t run with a wide base
  2. Wear quality neutral runners
  3. Address your running technique or see a podiatrist who can wedge your shoe.
Do your toes point straight when walking and standing?

I’m very big on this, the direction in which your foot points will predetermine how the rest of your body is aligned. If you point your feet in when you stand, you will tend to find your adductors or groin muscles over work. As a result of this, it opposes the Glute muscles from working on rotating the hips out and supporting the pelvis and spine. On the contrary if your feet point out, you will find that your Center of mass moves into the insides of your feet reducing your arch profile and increase tension on the knee joint. This also tends to compress the outside of the ankle and reduces the capacity of your big toe working in movement. Once these factors have all added up, you will find there is an increase risk of lateral hip and knee pain as well as a high risk of pronating uncontrollably during walking and running gait.

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