Our body is a complex and fascinating structure of connected and largely interdependent parts. In a past blog, we discussed how your feet can contribute to back pain and other musculoskeletal (MSK) conditions. The altered gait and biomechanics can create additional stress on joints, muscles, bones, and the nervous system, putting you at risk of injury.
Here are some examples of biomechanical foot dysfunctions, and how they can lead to back pain1,2,3,4,5:
A series of studies suggest that back pain may result, in part, from repetitive abnormal function of the feet, causing you to alter your posture to compensate for the foot pain—ultimately creating an environment primed for low back pain. The studies also suggest that someone with a previous history of injuries is more likely to reinjure themselves. This is due in part to repeating the same dysfunctional movements over time, consequently altering one’s gait—often without being addressed.
- Range of Motion
Motions of the hip, knee, ankle and foot joints flex in the opposite direction from the joint directly above or below it. Should one of these hinges be restricted or limited, the loss of motion in one joint negatively impact the others (higher up the leg or in the spine, for example) and this may result in pain or dysfunction.
- Leg Length Discrepancies
A difference in leg length that is greater than 5 millimeters can contribute to low back pain. If the leg length difference is greater than 9 mm there is a significantly greater likelihood of having an episode of low back pain. Leg length discrepancies can be structural or functional. Depending on the discrepancy, measures can be taken to help address these and alleviate symptoms or dysfunctions.
- Body Weight Imbalances
There can be subtle structural differences in your body. These can be related to natural asymmetry or an injury, and either could potentially have a dramatic impact on the rest of your body. The parts of your body are all connected in a kinetic chain, and if there is a significant imbalance in your weight, the imbalanced force can end up making its way to your lower back (or another part of your body) causing MSK-related issues down the line. Any host of issues stemming from the foot has the potential to work all the way up to the hips, which is just a short chain link away from your low back, potentially causing you back pain.
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Wilson J, Ferris E, Heckler A, Maitland L, Taylor C (2005). A structured review of the role of gluteus maximus in rehabilitation. New Zealand Journal of Physiotherapy 33(3) 95-100.
Dananberg HJ. The Effect of Gait on Chronic Musculoskeletal pain. Manual for The Langer Foundation for Biomechanics and Sports Medicine Research, 1992 pp.16-22.
Dananberg HJ. Gait style and its relevance in the management of chronic lower back pain. In: Vleeming A, Mooney V, Gracovetsky S, Lee D, et al. (eds): Proceedings, 4th Interdisciplinary World Congress of Low Back & Pelvic Pain, Montreal, Canada, November 8-10, 2001, pp. 225-230.
Dananberg HJ, Guiliano M. Gait mechanics and their relationship to lower back pain. In: Vleeming A, Mooney V, Tilscher H, Dorman T, Snijders C. (eds): Proceeding of 3rd Interdisciplinary World Congress on Low Back and Pelvic Pain. European Conference Organizers, Rotterdam, Holland, November 1998.
Dananberg HJ. Gait style and function of the SIJ. In: Vleeming A., Mooney V, Snijders C, Dorman T (eds): Movement, Stability, and Lower Back Pain. Churchill Livingstone, New York, 1998, pp. 253-267.