Experiencing foot pain is common and can be caused by many different factors, but the actual question is, can foot pain be caused due to any back problem? The answer is yes, even though it seems unlikely, foot pain can be directly related to some back problems, mostly your lower back. This is because leg or foot pain typically originates in the lumbar region of the lower back, even when there is no significant lower back pain.
The more common causes of foot pain are injuries, wearing improper shoes, or physical problems that lie within the foot, like tendonitis, arthritis, or bursitis.
Spinal conditions that can cause foot pain
Spinal nerves go through, and some may start in your lower spine and travel through your legs which end up in your feet. If any of the nerve roots that are present in the lower back is irritated or compressed, it may result in foot pain.
Here are some of the spinal conditions that can cause foot pain:
The spinal disc or the intervertebral disks are located between the vertebrae that make the spine. Problems associated with the discs, such as torn discs, slipped discs, protrusion of the discs, or disc collapse, also result in foot pain. However, with disc herniation, it’s not the damaged disc that is painful; it’s the fluid that leaks from the inner disc and irritates the nerves nearby, causing nerve root pain. As a result of the pinched nerve, radicular pain may radiate down the leg or arm from the lower back.
Sciatic nerves are located at your lower spine and extend down into your thighs & to your toes. Many leg and foot muscles are connected to the spinal cord by these nerves. Irritation or inflammation of this sciatic nerve may lead to leg and foot pain, which is called sciatica.
It is a lower back condition, often called degenerative spondylolisthesis, that occurs when a vertebra slips and falls over the below vertebra. The slipped vertebra makes the spine segment weak and compresses the nearby nerves, which eventually causes pain that spreads down the leg and into the foot.
Arthritis is a painful inflammatory condition of the joints associated with other symptoms like tenderness, swelling, and joint stiffness. Consequently, soft tissues may be damaged in the body. In response to joint instability, osteophytes (small bony growths) might develop at the facet joints and the vertebrae. With the expansion of the bone spurs, they occupy the nerve space often called spinal stenosis, squeezing the nerves in the spinal canal and causing pain. Often, this pain may radiate down to the foot or leg from the spine
Symptoms of Foot Pain Resulting From the Spine
If foot pain is accompanied by leg pain or numbness, there’s a good chance that the pain is the result of a condition in the lumbar region of the spine. Depending on the condition, types of foot pain symptoms resulting from a lumbar spine condition include:
Difficulty walking on tiptoes: Pain on the bottom of the foot may be due to a condition with the sciatic nerve’s S1 spinal nerve root. The nerve root affects the calf muscle otherwise known as the gastrocnemius muscle, making it difficult to walk on tiptoes, raise the heel off the ground or do everyday activities like walking.
Numbness and paresthesia on the outer aspect of the foot : This is typically form the l5/S1 disc and S1 radiculopathy
Foot drop: This symptom is characterized by weakness or heaviness that makes it challenging to flex the ankle and bring up the front of the foot.
In addition, foot drop resulting from an issue with an L5 nerve root will produce pain that radiates down the outside of the calf and over the top of the foot, ending at the big toe.
Heel walk: Heel walk is a limited ability to bring the foot upward and may be accompanied by numbness in the lower leg and foot. Heel walk may appear if one of the nerves (L5) connected to the sciatic nerve (a major nerve that begins in the lower back and extends down the back of the thigh) is affected.
Leg cramps : These are symptoms which are secondary to spinal canal stenosis or compression in the lumbar spine .These are also associated with claudication
Having said these, It is important to rule out local foot conditions like plantar fasciitis , Gouty arthritis of the first metatarso phalengeal joint, ankle joint and subtalar arthritis ,Tibilais posterior syndrome and other compressive neuropathies involving the foot and ankle which can confuse with diagnosis. So a detailed clinical history and examination are very important in the assessment .
You should see a spine specialist for a proper diagnosis to determine the specific spinal conditions that are causing your foot pain. This is because Dr. Surya Prakash, one of the best spine surgeons in Hyderabad, says that the underlying that causing pain in your leg & foot need to be treated.