ARE YOUR FEET CAUSING YOUR BACK PAIN?
When you see some cracks in the walls you immediately check if the house lacks foundation. If your car is difficult to handle, especially after you hit a large pothole or the curb, you immediately check the alignment settings in your car. In both cases, you make sure that there is a proper structural foundation.
Why is it then that doctors rarely check the foundation – the feet – when someone is dealing with back or hip pain? When it comes to the ‘structure’ of our bodies we seem to forget that it needs to have a proper foundation as well.
The most obvious reason why doctors and therapists don’t look at the feet is that they are ‘too far away’ from where the pain is. How can something that is so far away be responsible for the pain in the back?
Well, the answer is pretty simple: If the feet are not fulfilling their proper function as the foundation of the body — one of which is serving as a shock absorber — all the structures that lie above the feet, like the knee, hip joint, or the spine, have to compensate for that.
The foot, as a whole, is a very complex structure that has two important functions: weight bearing and moving the body forward. In order for that to happen the foot must give you both stability and flexibility.
The foot consists of many bones, muscles, and three arches, even though most people are only aware of the big arch at the inside of the foot. Each part of the foot needs to fulfill a certain function while you are standing, walking or running. One of the bones’ vital functions is to spread the weight of the body over the whole foot, while the arches are the body’s number one shock absorbers and adapt to uneven ground.
Your Footprints Tell Your Back Pain Story
Have you ever looked at the footprints you leave in the sand when you are walking along the beach? Have you ever looked at the pattern that other people‘s feet are making in the sand? Have you ever watched how people are walking in general?Well, if you haven’t, then I invite you to do so. Walk barefoot along the beach and have a look at your footprints. What are they telling you? How are you placing your feet? Are they both turned out? One foot turned out? Both feet turned in? One foot in, one foot out? Can you see the ‘arch’ in the footprint?
Then go out and observe how other people are placing their feet on the ground. This will be very revealing because you will easily spot different movement patterns. You may be able to see how much tension people are holding not only in their feet but also in their calves and lower backs.
The most common pattern that you will see is the ‘toeing out’ or duck feet. It is also the saddest pattern, really, because people learn to walk like that. Every time I go out and watch people I am shocked to see that so many kids are walking with their feet turned out, and neither their parents nor their doctors seem to realize that these kids are back pain patients waiting to happen.
This is not the natural way of walking or standing, and completely contradicts how we are supposed to walk. Unfortunately, many doctors will tell you that it is a structural failure of the body that cannot be corrected. But that is simply not true.
Are you holding too much tension in your feet so that the arches are too rigid and cannot work as shock absorbers? Are you clawing your toes, for example, so that the weight cannot be distributed properly over the whole foot?
Depending on the way you are standing and walking, certain muscles in your feet, legs, and even your upper body will tighten up. Those tight muscles will shorten over time, while other muscles are not used at all. This will put more stress on the ankle and knee joints, which may lead to cartilage damage, and the hip and spine have to compensate as well.
As I said before, if your feet don’t give you the proper foundation your body needs, all the muscles, joints and tendons that lie above the feet will have to compensate. If you are holding too much tension in the arches of your feet they cannot fulfill their task as shock absorbers. This will ultimately have an impact on your spine as your spine is the next in line of absorbing the impact of every step you take.
Holding too much tension in your arches, or walking and standing with your feet turned out are only two of the many movement patterns that you have learned and developed over the years and that have a very damaging impact on the back.
These walking or standing habits can really make or break your back pain, so you need to find out what movement patterns you have. If you want to heal your back pain for good, you need to give your body a proper foundation.