If you have chronic lower back pain, take a look at your feet. Flat feet, also called fallen arches, may be the cause of the pain. The position of your feet has a lot to do with the alignment of your legs and hips. Any problem with this alignment can put stress on the lower back, causing your pain. Here is how your feet may be contributing to that persistent ache in your lower back and how to get rid of the pain.
Your Arches and Body Alignment
The arch in your feet has several functions:
- it acts as a shock absorber each time you step down on your foot
- it keeps your ankles, knees and hips in their natural anatomical alignment
Your arch causes the foot to turn in and rotate out slightly. When the arch fails, the foot rests on the floor turning it out and rotating it in. This causes stress in the ankles, knees and hips which creates pain in the lower back. You also lose the shock absorber effect so every step transmits force up your legs and into your back.
Causes of Fallen Arches
A number of issues contribute to the loss of the arch in your feet, such as:
- a genetic predisposition to weak tendons and muscles in the feet
- an injury to the muscles and tendons in the feet
- weight gain that puts additional stress on the foot muscles
- overuse of the foot muscles during exercise or other physical activity
- bone and muscles diseases, such as arthritis and osteoporosis
Treating Fallen Arches
An examination by a podiatrist will determine the cause of your flat feet and which treatments will be appropriate. The foot doctor will initially recommend non-invasive approaches. If these fail to give you enough relief, surgery is the next step.
The non-invasive treatment options include:
- Shoe inserts - Custom orthotics in your shoes will create an artificial arch for your foot.
- Physical therapy - Strengthening the muscles in your foot can make them better able to hold your arch in place.
- Foot and ankle braces - These devices hold the foot in better alignment to relieve the stress from your ankles, knees and hips.
When surgery becomes an option, this can include:
- Tendon placement - The surgeon can move the tendons to different points on the foot bones, creating better leverage to hold the arch in place more effectively.
- Bone fusion - Some of the bones in the foot can be fused together to create a rigid, artificial arch. Your foot will be in better alignment, but you won't have the shock absorber effect of a natural arch.