You may not have considered that the persistent ache in your lower back is somehow connected to your feet. But a visit to one of your local podiatrists may prove that your flat feet are part of the problem. That little arch in your foot has a lot to do with the alignment of your hips, knees and ankles. When these are out of alignment, you can develop pain in your back. Here is why the arch in your foot is so important and what can be done to get rid of the back pain caused by a lack of arch.
How Your Arch Works and What Happens When It Fails
The calf muscle in your lower leg attaches to the foot bones through the Achilles tendon. This large tendon, and other tendons in the foot, hold the bones in your foot in the characteristic inverted cup shape. This shape forces your foot to roll in and rotate out slightly at the ankle. This creates a springiness in the foot that acts as a shock absorber each time you take a step. It also keeps your body in alignment from your ankles up to the pelvis.
When the arch fails, your foot settles onto the floor and loses the shock absorber effect. The foot rolls out and rotates in at the ankle causing your ankles, knees and hips to go out of alignment. This puts stress on those joints so you may have pain in those areas and your lower back.
The Causes of Flat Feet
Several factors can contribute to flat feet, also known as fallen arches:
- Genetics - Weak muscles and tendons in the foot may not hold the arch shape.
- Injury - Damage to the Achilles tendon can cause the arch to fail.
- Overuse - Tiring out the muscles and tendons in the foot from work or a sports activity can make the arch fail.
- Weight gain - Excess weight puts stress on the muscles in your feet so they can't hold the arch in place.
The Treatment Options for Flat Feet
The podiatrist will determine the cause and extent of your fallen arches and recommend the appropriate treatment. They will first offer non-invasive approaches to treatment. If those don't give you enough relief, surgical intervention will be the next step.
- Orthotics - Custom shoe inserts that create an artificial arch may be used. These will temporarily give you some relief while other treatments work to restore your natural arch permanently.
- Physical therapy - Strengthening exercises are designed to build up the muscles in your feet so they can hold the shape of the arch.
- Ankle braces - These may be used to hold you ankle in proper alignment to take the stress off of your knees, hips and lower back.
Surgical treatments include:
- Bone fusion - The surgeon can fuse bones together in your foot to create an artificial arch. This will give you better alignment and reduce your back pain, but it doesn't give you the shock absorber benefit.
- Tendon reattachment - Tendons can be moved in the foot to give them better leverage so they can hold the arch shape easier.
If you suspect your flat feet or other foot problems are causing you pain, see Allied Ankle & Foot Care Centers PC or another podiatrist near you.