Can Back Pain Cause Foot Pain?

Can Back Pain Cause Foot Pain?


It’s only natural to assume that when we develop pain in our feet, it’s from an injury or problem with our feet – right? Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. As we have nerves that originate in our lower back at our spine, and these same nerves travel down our legs and to our feet, we can develop referred pain from our back that creates symptoms in our feet.


Today, the Sole Motion Podiatry team is sharing the causes of foot and leg pain that start in your back.


1. Sciatica

A definite cause of referred pain from the back to the feet and legs is sciatica. Sciatica occurs when the sciatic nerve in the lower back is compressed, inflamed or irritated. It can cause pain, numbness and muscle weakness in the lower limbs. 


The sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in your body (sometimes as wide as your thumb!), extending from your spinal column down each leg to your feet. This helps explain how you can experience foot pain as a result of lower back pain. It can be quite a dull aching pain, or a shooting pain that can spread down your leg to your toes. This pain can last a few hours, or may continue for weeks or months. 


2. Spinal Problems

Lower back problems can also affect your other spinal nerves, which can then radiate pain down the leg and to the foot. Some of the common causes of foot and leg pain that start in the lower back are:


  • Herniated discs – when an intervertebral discs’ contents leak or bulge
  • Spinal stenosis – when the small bony openings of the spinal nerves narrow
  • Degeneration – when arthritis or increased age cause changes to the vertebrae in your spine
  • Spondylolisthesis – slipping of a vertebra over the next lower vertebra
  • Ankylosing spondylitis – an inflammatory arthritis that affects the spine and sacroiliac joints of the lower back. Can cause back pain, as well as referred pain down the legs


3. Pelvic And Hip-Related Problems

Problems with the joints or muscles in your hip and pelvic area can also impact your legs and feet. This can occur from:


  • Piriformis syndrome – the spasm of the piriformis muscle located in the pelvis, which impinges the sciatic nerve
  • Sacroiliac joint dysfunction – when the sacroiliac hip joint doesn’t move easily in the way it is intended, it can cause both lower back pain and leg pain
  • Trochanteric bursitis – when there is inflammation of a fluid-filled sac on the side of the hip, this can compress the nerves and affect the muscles in this area


How can I tell if my foot pain is caused by a back problem?

2While this is not definitive, start by looking at these symptoms:

  • You feel pins and needles, numbness, tingling or burning sensations in your foot (or down your leg)
  • You have trouble pointing your toes upwards
  • Your feet or legs feel heavy
  • You have foot drop, where your forefoot is dropping down towards the ground uncontrollably
  • You have trouble walking on your tiptoes


Getting pain? We can help!

If you’re experiencing pain in your feet and are worried that it’s a nerve compression or other problem that originates in your back or somewhere else, we can help. Our experienced podiatry team will work to assess, diagnose and help treat the problem to alleviate your symptoms, and reduce the likelihood of it returning.

Where necessary, we’ll refer you for imaging and involve other health professions to ensure you get the best long-term result.


Book your appointment online by clicking here or calling us on 1300 FX FEET


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