Helping Baby Boomers get fit … get well … and live longer!

Do you remember this song … “The hip bone is connected to the thigh bone, the thigh bone is connected to the knee bone, the knee bone is connected to the ankle bone . . . .”????

Well, if your lower back starts hurting for no apparent reason, your feet may be the origin of your back pain.  There are several major causes of foot injuries or conditions that may lead to pain in the back:

  • Structural Abnormalities
  • Footwear
  • Wear and Tear

Structural Abnormalities
Hallux rigidus is a disorder of the joint located at the base of the big toe. It causes pain and stiffness in the joint, and with time it gets increasingly harder to bend the toe.  ‘Hallux” refers to the big toe, while “rigidus” indicates that the toe is rigid and cannot move. Hallux rigidus is actually a form of degenerative arthritis.  Many patients confuse hallux rigidus with a bunion, which affects the same joint, but they are very different conditions requiring different treatment.

Structural abnormalities of the foot, i.e., hallux rigidus, can lead to osteoarthritis in the big toe joint.  This type of foot problem can be inherited or develop due to overuse of the joint.  People engaged in jobs or activities that increase the stress on the big toe where they often stoop or squat, are prime candidates for hallux rigidus.  Inflammatory diseases such as gout or rheumatoid arthritis may also cause it, as well as fallen arches or excessive pronation or rolling in of the ankles.

Footwear
Women are very susceptible to this type of back pain.  High heels and pointed-toe shoes are a major cause of injury to women’s feet and ankles.  That’s why the majority of foot and ankle patients are women.  High heels can cause ligaments in the foot and ankle to be torn or stretched, causing sprains and chronic ankle issues.  High heels also thrust the foot forward or crowd the toes in the shoe, impacting the foot.  Painful bunions, hammertoes, and corns can develop or worsen as a result.

High heels also force women to stand and walk unnaturally, affecting the alignment of the ankles, knees, hips and lower back.   When you injure your foot or your big toe joint hurts, you change your gait to minimize the pain.   Changing your gait or the way you walk can also affect or change the way the bones of all the other leg joints move.  The ankle, the knee, the hip and the lower back are affected.  When ligaments, cartilage and tendons in these joints are stressed, they can wear down and arthritis can set in.

Ill-fitting athletic shoes that don’t support the arch of the foot and provide the proper cushioning can lead to foot and ankle problems.  Plantar fasciitis is a condition that develops when the arch support and heel cushioning are inadequate.  Painful blisters on the feet can also develop and become infected, causing more serious issues.

Wear and Tear
Sports-related injuries to the legs, ankles and feet may also lead to back pain.  Jogging or sports that involve a lot of running like tennis, football, baseball, and basketball put a lot of wear and tear on the feet, ankles, legs, and hips.  Playing through pain is never a wise thing to do.  These injuries, left untreated, may lead to back pain and other debilitating conditions.

The development of back pain as a result of a foot or ankle injury is no laughing matter.  Contact a foot specialist or orthopedic surgeon as soon as possible to seek a proper diagnosis and prompt treatment.  In order to minimize risk, wear proper fitting footwear appropriate for the activity or exercise.

When your feet or ankles are painful, don’t ignore them!  Contact a foot specialist or orthopedic surgeon for an evaluation.  Your back will thank you for it..

2 Comments

  1. Matthew A. Doney says:

    I have had a progressive limp for over 35 years from a foot injury sustained at about 19 years old. Continual and progressive lower and mild upper spinal paain which led tp multiple back surgeries. Now I am experiencing hip problems (same side as foot injury) and need information as to options and connections.

  2. Iris says:

    Matthew,

    So sorry to read about your back problems and the multiple back surgeries. Based on the information you have shared, it appears your balance is off. Over the years, you body has had to compensate for progressive limp. That puts stress and strain on the ligaments and joints. You may have developed arthritis in your hip joints or sciatica. I would strongly recommend that you contact an orthopedic surgeon or a neurologist as soon as possible to seek a proper diagnosis and prompt treatment. Don’t let it linger.

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