Low back pain is one of the most common musculoskeletal injuries and a frequent cause for doctor office visits. Low back pain can arise from a number of factors: work related injuries, improper or heavy lifting, poor posture, genetics, previous injuries, excessive body weight, chronic disease, sports and activities. Common courses of treatment include physiotherapy, chiropractic care, massage therapy, osteopathy, lifestyle alterations, medication and surgery.
Although custom-made foot orthotics are most commonly prescribed for the treatment of lower limb and foot conditions, in some cases they can be helpful in the treatment of chronic lower back pain. The way your feet interact with the ground can have an effect higher up the body.
Here are a few examples of how your feet and legs can have a negative impact on your lower back health:
Leg Length Discrepancy
Leg length discrepancy (LLD) is when one leg is longer than the other. It can be classified under structural LLD, where the bones are of different lengths and functional LLD, where one leg is longer than the other due to imbalances in muscles, tendons and ligaments of the hip, leg or foot, or even a combination of both. When a LLD occurs, no matter if it's structural or functional, the body compensates for the difference. The attempt by the body to correct or compensate for the leg length difference can put additional stain on muscles, ligaments and joints. The use of custom orthotics and/or a heel lift can assist with a functional LLD by bringing the ground up to the shorter leg. A LLD can be congenital, you are born that way, or acquired, such as after trauma or surgery, like a knee or hip replacement.
When your arches raise and lower (which is a normal part of walking) the bones of your legs rotate inwards and outwards. When your feet excessively pronate, or arch falling too far down and in, this rotation of your legs bones can be excessive leading to increased stress on your knees, pelvic and low back. Excessive pronation is shown to cause an increase in pelvic tilt , which is correlated with a larger lumbar curvature in your back, and may lead to low back pain. You may notice that your low back pain worsens with different shoes or that walking barefoot makes your lower back hurt.
Rigid feet that don’t have a lot of flexibility are poor shock absorbers. If your feet lack the ability to absorb shock, the impact forces from the ground travel higher up the body. Custom made foot orthotics can provide some shock absorbing properties and help even out pressure distribution throughout the entire foot, lessening the load on your lower back.
Seek out treatment from a variety of practitioners, a multidisciplinary approach can be effective at addressing the injury from multiple angles.