If you consider the size of your feet relative to the rest of your body, you can begin to understand the engineering marvel that is the human body. Our complex musculoskeletal structures are interconnected in obvious and not-so-obvious ways. Much of it comes down to those two small extremities that are the foundation of it all.
At Active Rehab Clinics in Park Ridge and Bucktown, Chicago, Illinois, Dr. Tony Zemlinsky understands how a problem in one area can affect a seemingly unrelated area, such as the impact of flat feet on your lower back. Read on to learn how Dr. Zemlinsky helps patients overcome chronic lower back pain by addressing their fallen arches.
Arches absorb impact
Your feet are incredibly complex, starting with the fact that they house more than one-quarter of the total bones in your body. And all of these small bones are connected by a host of tendons, ligaments, and muscles that keep everything together. This large cast of players all work in concert to provide you with the support and mobility you need, and every component, literally, needs to pull its weight.
Critical to this are the arches in your feet. While we commonly talk about the foot having one arch, in reality, each foot has three arches: two longitudinal arches and one transverse arch. Your medial longitudinal arch is the main arch, and it’s the one usually referred to when doctors discuss flat feet. This arch is primarily responsible for shock absorption when you’re moving around. It fields the impact when you’re walking or running.
Behind the fall
When you’re born, you enter the world with flat feet, because your arches haven’t developed yet. Once you take to your feet and become mobile, your arches form. For some people, these arches may never develop, but more often than not, years of wear and tear can take their toll on the tendons that hold your feet, allowing your arches to fall.
A prime example of tendon failure leading to flat feet is posterior tibial tendon dysfunction. Your posterior tibial tendon provides the link between your calf muscles and the bones on the inside of your foot, and it plays a critical role in how your foot functions. If this tendon is damaged and inflamed due to overuse, your arches lose the support they need and flatten out.
No matter how your flat feet develop, the bottom line is that this structural irregularity can have a cascading effect that travels up your body.
It’s all connected
As we’ve emphasized above, your feet are Ground Zero when it comes to your musculoskeletal system, so when there’s a problem in this foundational support, its effects may be felt elsewhere in your body. For example, if you have flat feet, your ankles may roll slightly inward when you stand or walk. This altered gait can then affect the alignment of your knees and hips. With these major joints out of balance, the impact can travel up to your lower back and cause chronic pain.
Unfortunately, when flat feet lead to lower back pain, this means that your other primary foundational support system — your spine — is compromised. Ultimately, flat feet that lead to lower back pain mean that much of your body’s main structure is out of alignment, and balance needs to be restored.
Striking a balance
If your flat feet are causing lower back pain, there are many ways we can help.
Each patient’s treatment is individualized but will typically entail one or more of the following approaches:
- Custom orthotics. Custom-designed arch supports are molded to the contours of your feet, comfortably offering support. We use innovative Plantiga AI orthotics. Plantiga uses artificial intelligence to scan and evaluate the precise shape of your feet. This data is used to create a highly customized orthotic that supports your foot and corrects your gait.
- Stretching exercises. Some patients with fallen arches also have a shortened Achilles tendon. Special exercises that stretch this tendon can offer relief.
- Physical therapy. Along with targeted exercises for both your feet and legs, physical therapy may entail ice therapy to reduce inflammation, correction of your walking patterns, and in some cases, ankle braces.
Contact our office nearest you today for lower back pain caused by fallen arches and all of your musculoskeletal and sports-related health care needs. Phone or send us a message online.