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What is the Connection Between Back and Foot Pain?

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  • Written By: Sandra Koehler
  • Edited By: C. Wilborn
  • Last Modified Date: 01 September 2016
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Back and foot pain occurring together is most often the result of a problem in the spine or foot. When the bones of the spine and any of its components, such as the nerves and the discs, become damaged or irritated, pain issues often begin in the back and can travel to the foot. When the foot is injured, pain may travel up to the back. When a symptom travels into another area or is felt in another area, it is called radiating or referred pain.

Common spinal problems resulting in back and foot pain include such things as degenerative conditions and herniated discs. Changes which cause deterioration of the joints in the spine can cause abnormal pressure on the nerves of the spinal column. Since the spinal column is where the nerves branch out into different parts of the body, pressure can trigger pain symptoms. These symptoms can form in the area of nerve irritation and down the length of the nerve. This can give rise to pain issues in two seemingly different areas, such as the back and the foot at the same time.

Increased nerve pressure can also occur when the disc between the bones of the spine becomes altered. This condition, known as degenerative disc disease or spondylosis, can occur with aging. It occurs when the spring-like cushioning in between the bones begins to deteriorate or wear out. When this happens, it makes the disc more likely to shift out of position.

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The shifting of a disc can cause it to leak out of its protective bony enclosure. If enough of the disc escapes, it can lump up or become herniated. The nerve extending into the buttocks, down the back of the leg, and into the foot can be irritated by a herniated disc in the low back area. Called sciatica, this condition can elicit back and foot pain. Disc herniations and nerve pressure may also be caused if the spaces of the spinal column become smaller, a condition known as spinal stenosis.

When back and foot pain are experienced together, a foot injury may also be to blame. Damage to the foot which causes pain may alter weight bearing and walking patterns. A shift in the foot when standing or walking can change the alignment of the spine. This abnormal positioning can tighten the muscles of the legs, buttocks, and back, triggering back pain symptoms in addition to the foot discomfort.

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burcinc
Post 3

I get upper back pain and ball of the foot pain when I exercise too much and do very demanding exercises. Does this mean that I have a spinal problem? Could it be my posture?

serenesurface
Post 2

@feruze-- No, that's very common, it's due to sciatica.

Basically, the herniated disc is applying pressure on nerves that run along the back and into the leg and foot. But different nerves can be affected at different times. So while your back pain and numbness resonates into the left leg one day, it can resonate into the other leg the next day.

The source of the problem is your back and your spine. If the pressure is removed from the nerves in your back, the leg and foot pain will also disappear.

If you have chronic back and foot pain, you need to see your doctor. The hernia might have worsened.

bear78
Post 1

I have been diagnosed with a lumbar herniated disc and I usually have lower back pain and foot pain simultaneously. What baffles me is that sometimes, the pain is in the right leg and foot and at other times, it's in the left leg and foot. How is this possible?

Is there a different reason for my foot pain?

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