Did you know your feet may be to blame for back pain? The shape and arch of your feet affect how your body bears weight as you move. Having a high arch, decreased ankle flexion, or smaller drop of the navicular bones in your feet, may make you more susceptible to lower back pain.
Many chiropractors use foot orthotics to address low-back pain in workers who stand all day, or in people with posture, gait, or lower-extremity problems. Foot orthotics are shoe inserts that gently help to redistribute your weight, reduce pressure, and provide shock absorption to alter how your body bears weight and decrease back pain overtime.
Two new studies confirmed the efficacy of foot orthotics for low-back pain. The first study included 66 patients suffering from lower back pain after auto accidents. Half of the patients were treated with exercise plus pain medication, and the other half received foot orthotics with medication as needed. The foot orthotics group had better improvements in disability scores than the exercise plus medication group.
In another new qualitative study, patients were surprised to discover that altering their feet actually made a difference, but many reported reduced pain and disability as well as improved posture.
While foot orthotics may lead to meaningful improvements in and of itself, research suggest that there’s an added benefit to combining the treatment with chiropractic care. In a 2005 study, John Zhang, PhD, MD compared the efficacy of chiropractic plus foot orthotics to foot orthotics alone or a control group. Although the foot orthotics did reduce low-back pain, patients in the combined treatment group had the greatest improvements in pain, disability, quality of life, and over all function.
Zhang hypothesized that chiropractic adjustments to the spine and lower extremities could work “synergistically or complimentary to” foot orthotics by improving joint mobility and muscle tension which decreases the “break-in time” for orthotics. Additionally, foot orthotics could “play an important role in maintaining the outcome of chiropractic care by supporting appropriate body mechanics.”
Foot orthotics are also used to treat tendonitis, arch/heel pain, and knee pain.
Ferrari R. Effects of customized foot orthotics on reported disability and analgesic use in patients with chronic low back pain associated with motor vehicle collisions. Journal of Chiropractic Medicine 2013; 12(1): 15019. doi: 10.1016/j.jcm.2013.02.001.
Williams, A. et al. Foot orthoses for the management of low back pain: a qualitative approach capturing the patient’s perspective. Journal of Foot Ankle Research 2013; 6: 17. doi 10.1186/1757-1146-6-17.
Zhang J. Chiropractic adjustments and orthotics reduced symptoms for standing workers. Journal of Chiropractic Medicine 2005; 4: 177-181.