Here’s a little foot for thought: People who experience knee, hip and back pain during normal activities like walking, running, working and exercising may want to consider that the source of their discomfort actually stems from their feet.
According to Gopal T. Raghunath, PT MS, DPT, CSCS, owner/clinic director of Buffalo Grove Physical Therapy & Sports Rehabilitation, P.C. in Buffalo Grove, Illinois, a person’s soles and toes can be responsible for a host of problems elsewhere in the body.
The podiatrist told the Chicago Tribute, “Pain in the spine, hips, and knees can often be caused by an ailment in the foot, resulting in gait abnormalities. When dealing with such issues, you have to take into consideration the entire kinetic chain, from the feet up through the body. Assessing how your body moves globally, starting with the feet, is often key in identifying the underlying causes of pain and dysfunction in other parts of the body."
How Your Feet Are Linked To Back Pain, Hip Pain and Knee Pain
Your feet make up 25 percent of the bones in your body and consist of 33 joints and hundreds of muscles, ligaments and tendons. Any functional issues within that complex network of working pieces and parts can create issues through the legs and up into other parts of the body, including the back.
For example, an improper gait brought on by ill-fitting shoes can lead to bunions, hammertoes, plantar fasciitis and other foot conditions that permanently change the way your body moves — which can then lead to back, hip and knee pain. But that chain of events isn’t something most people keep in mind.
"It's common to take our feet for granted — that is, until they start to hurt," Dr. Raghunath says. "It's at this point when the rest of our bodies are most susceptible to injury because, to compensate for the pain and possibly a lack of flexibility or proper movement, more of the impact and stress normally absorbed by the feet is transferred up throughout our kinetic chain."
How To Find Out If Your Feet Are Causing Knee, Hip and Back Pain
So what is a person who is experiencing back, hip or knee pain to do? Dr. Raghunath suggests you schedule an appointment with a podiatrist for a foot and gait examination. If the foot doctor determines that you’re walking abnormally, he or she may be able to suggest better shoes, insoles and/or orthoses that could help diminish your hip, knee and back pain.
“By achieving the right balance between flexibility and strength, plus wearing shoes that are appropriate for your foot type, your feet will feel great," Dr. Raghunath said. "And of course, the rest of your body will benefit, as well.”