Did you know that your back pain may be coming from your feet? That’s right, your feet. There’s a direct relationship between the structural balance of your feet and the workings of the entire kinematic chain of your body. Structural stress, such as foot pronation, produces muscle imbalances, and this begins at the foundation. When you walk, your spine is supported by one leg at a time. Different surfaces affect the forces that are transmitted throughout your legs and body, causing biomechanical imbalances to the spine. The force of one heel strike sends a shock wave up the leg to the pelvis, spine and skull.
Let’s look at the foot: There are 26 bones, 33 joints and more than 100 muscles, tendons and ligaments, not to mention a network of blood vessels, nerves, skin and soft tissue. And this is in each foot. There are also three arches; a medial or inner arch, a lateral or outer arch, and an arch that runs transversely under the metatarsals (just below the toes).
The function of the arches is to absorb shock, support your weight, and propel the body during movement. When you stand, half of your weight should be distributed over the heel, and the other half over the ball of the foot and the toes.
Pronation (inward rolling of the foot) is a normal occurrence during midstance and is necessary for proper foot biomechanics. As we age, the ligaments and tendons supporting the foot weaken, and this causes the inner arch to slowly drift inward. Left untreated, ligaments and tendons may deform to compensate as they become accustomed to the misalignment.
When you start to ‘overpronate,’ this can result in internal rotation of your legs, pelvic tilt, postural compensation, shoulder rounding and forward head carriage. Overpronation also results in excessive shock transmission, pelvic unleveling, improper stance and gait, and can prematurely wear down the knee and hip joints. Excessive pronation can result in global postural distortions, including abnormal stress on the spine, chronic sacroiliac joint problems, and yes, of course, pain. Some other consequences of pronation include plantar fasciitis, Achilles’ tendonitis and even bunions.
Often pronation is the result of normal aging, as there is a natural change of elasticity and nutrient supply in the ligaments and tendons supporting the foot. Other causes include foot strain due to excessive forces, such as poor-quality shoes, or prolonged use of high heels. Hormonal changes of menopause contribute to degenerative wear and tear. Weight gain is another aggravating factor.
One option for addressing and resolving these issues is stabilizing orthotics, now referred to as spinal pelvic stabilizers. The SPS provide numerous benefits, such as reducing biomechanical stress, providing heel-strike shock absorption, retraining neuromuscular firing patterns and helping to create positive structural alignment throughout the body.
Don’t underestimate the power of your feet. Remember, the feet are your body’s foundation, and your posture is built on that foundation. Your feet don’t have to hurt to be causing pain somewhere else in your body. If you are experiencing back or joint pain, consider whether this pain may be associated with your feet, and investigate your options.
Patricia Holl, D.C., is a staff member at Yellowstone Naturopathic Clinic. She can be reached at 259-5096.