Understanding the Foot Pain-Back Pain Link

Foot pain usually results from injury, wearing ill-fitting shoes or physical issues within the foot including tendonitis, arthritis or bursitis. Foot pain is often related to problems of the lower back.

The spinal nerves from the lower back travel down the legs and terminate in your feet. The spinal nerves are irritated or compressed and cause foot pain when the nerve roots that are part of the nerve as it exits the spine. Foot pain could also be initiated due to compressed nerves near your hip, knee, or in your foot.

Pain and other problems with your feet affect your complete body ranging from your legs to back, your neck, and even your shoulders. Complete human body is interlinked thus single affliction easily affects an unrelated part of the body.

Pain and discomfort does not directly relate to flat feet, but how the flat feet affect your stride or the way you walk. Some people suffer from scoliosis, an unusually curved spine one leg is shorter than the other and affects the feet and spine. This might affect your ribs, internal organ locations, and bones.

Complications with your lower back, triggers symptoms in other limbs including:

  • Weakness in the Feet: You would experience distinct weakness in your feet from lower back problems called foot drop. The complication with your lower back might cause your feet to feel very heavy and find it extremely difficult to move the foot or to flex the ankle.
  • Limited Range of Motion: The spinal problems affect the limited range of motion. You might find it difficult to lift your foot up and forward causing numbness and weakness in the leg originating from the spinal nerve root.
  • Inability to Shift Weight: You might experience trouble or inability to shift your weight to your tiptoes commonly seen if you are experiencing complications in your sciatic nerve’s S1 spinal nerve root. Along with weakness in the feet you might be unable to shift your weight forward. Even if you try you might have a great deal of pain.



Nerve roots might be irritated or compressed due to a number of causes including:

  • Lumbar herniated disc: The inner contents of an intervertebral disc tend to leak. There are several spinal disc problems, such as torn disc, slipped disc, disc protrusion or collapsed disc, which might lead to associated pain. In case of a herniated disc mostly it is not the disc itself that is painful, but the leaking inner disc fluid that irritates a nearby nerve causing radicular or nerve root pain. The radicular pain from the pinched nerve might travel from the lower back to other parts of the body, including down the leg or the arm. Sometimes, the leg or foot pain is a direct result of issues in the disc space itself such as axial pain.
  • Sciatica: The sciatic nerves are connected at the base of the spine and extend down the back of each leg to the toes. The sciatic nerves further join the spinal cord to the leg and foot muscles. Sometimes, the sciatic nerves become irritated due to associated lower back problems that pinches on the never roots causing pain. It might usually cause leg and foot pain.
  • Lumbar degenerative disc disease: These are age-related changes leading to narrowing and shrinkage of the disc
  • Spondylolisthesis: It is slipping of the affected vertebra over the vertebra below it. It is found commonly in people over age 65 due to a slipped vertebral body that goes forward over the one below it. This occurs mainly at either the L4-L5 level of the lower spine or the L3-L4 level of the lumbar spine. Most common with the process of aging where the spinal bones, joints and ligaments become weakened. As a result they are unable to hold together the alignment of the spinal column. The vertebra would slip, thus compromising the spine segment leading to a pinched nerve that radiates pain down the leg and into the foot.
  • Lumbar spinal stenosis: This leads to narrowing of the bony openings for spinal nerves and/or the spinal cord
  • Foot Drop: It is an inability to lift the front part of the foot or frequent tripping while walking. This condition is usually caused due to compression of the L5 nerve root. It rarely might be caused due to compression of the L4 and/or S1 nerve roots.
  • Joint Arthritis: Arthritis results from inflammation of the joint causing pain, tenderness, swelling, and stiffness of joints. At the end it leads to soft tissue damage in the body. Over 50 million people in America suffer from various forms of arthritis that affect their daily activities. Arthritis is usually not an age-disease causing distress to nearly a half million children too. Osteoarthritis results in disabling and painful conditions affecting the joints of the weight bearing bones such as the hips and knees and the spine, hands and feet.

Over a period of time small bony growths or osteophytes are formed on the facet joints and around the vertebrae due to joint instability, which further destabilizes the spine and causes pain. The bone spurs are formed that might enlarge and penetrate the space for the nerves to pass (called spinal stenosis). This pain could radiate down from the spine to the foot and leg.


Pain in foot could be caused when nerves are compressed or damaged along their path in the hip, knee, or leg. These would include:

  • Peroneal neuropathy: This is a condition causing the peroneal nerve to be compressed or injured near the knee. This results in foot pain and foot drop when you try to move your foot.
  • Sciatic neuropathy: It is the damage to the sciatic nerve in the pelvic region (hip) causing foot pain along the top of your foot along with weakness.
  • Tarsal tunnel syndrome: This is dysfunction of the tibial nerve within the tarsal tunnel of the inner ankle. It might cause a sharp, shooting pain in your ankle and along the sole of your foot.
  • Sural nerve entrapment: This could occur in the leg or near the ankle. It typically causes shooting pain along the outer side of your ankle and/or foot.

Moreover, a corn might develop on the skin around your toes resulting in excessive friction, and nerve compression. This causes pain and other related symptoms. Nerve pain could also be caused from Morton’s neuroma that is a thickening of the tissue around a nerve in the foot.


With various possible causes of pain in the foot, it usually is difficult to pinpoint the exact underlying cause. Here are a few useful signs to help you identify the source of your foot pain:

  • Foot pain after recent trauma to the lower back, hip, knee, or ankle indicate the site of nerve damage
  • Foot pain due to nerve root compression or sciatica along with other symptoms including pain, numbness, and/or weakness in the buttock, thigh, and leg.
  • Foot pain occurring after wearing ill-fit shoes indicate peroneal or sural nerve compression near the knee or ankle
  • Foot pain developing after a hip injection or hip surgery indicate sciatic neuropathy


Everything in your body is interconnected. This is why your feet pain could be caused from problems occurring in your back, mainly lower back. A foot deformity could change the way you walk to avoid pain subconsciously. This might also trigger the pain in your back and vice-versa.

If you or anyone you know is suffering from foot problems, our expert providers at Specialty Care Clinics will take care of your health and help you recover.

Call us on (469) 545-9983 to book an appointment with our specialists.

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