Chiropractic + Shoe Orthotics Can Help Chronic Low Back Pain
When one area of the body hurts, it’s only natural to seek treatment methods which address that particular area. If your bicep is sore, you wouldn’t apply ice or heat to your thigh muscle. Or, if you noticed stiffness and tension in your neck, you wouldn’t necessarily try to find relief by stretching your toes.
That being said, since our body parts don’t function completely independent from each other, there are some instances when treatment applied to one area does in fact provide relief in another. One example is the way shoe orthotics can help ease back pain.
What Does the Case Study Say?
One 2017 study published in the Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation involved 225 adult subjects who had been experiencing asymptomatic low back pain for at least three months. Each participant was assigned to one of three research groups.
The 3 Research Groups:
- The first group was given custom-made shoe orthotics to wear for a six-week period.
- The second received chiropractic manipulation (specifically, thoracic and sacroiliac high-velocity, low-amplitude manipulation or flexion-distraction mobilization), soft tissue massage, and ice or heat packs in addition to the orthotics for the same period of time.
- The third group served as the control, engaging in no form of treatment whatsoever.
All subjects were assessed upon conclusion of the study and, while each group reported improvements in their level of back pain, the two groups wearing shoe orthotics experienced “significantly greater” reductions. Additionally, the group that engaged in chiropractic while also using shoe orthotics showed the most notable amount of improvement in function.
Q&A from Podiatry Today:
In a Q&A published on Podiatry Today, medical professionals speculated that shoe orthotics may provide relief by correcting gait issues, thus alleviating the abnormal movements which are contributing to back pain. Another potential issue shoe orthotics may address is repetitive motion injuries related to asymmetries in the body, restoring the symmetry which automatically alleviates the pain.
Custom Might Be Best, But Pharmacy or Retail Is Fine
While custom orthotics often provide the best results, some patients purchase them from a retail store or pharmacy instead. In these instances, the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA) suggests that people take their shoes with them to ensure the inserts will fit and also that they try them out right in the store before making the purchase. The APMA also recommends buying orthotics that provide the right support based on activity level. Please note, if diabetes or poor circulation is also present, selecting the wrong shoe orthotics could make the issue worse says the APMA. Therefore, at a minimum, one should consult with a podiatrist first to achieve the best possible results.
- Cambron, J et al. (2017). Shoe Orthotics for the Treatment of Chronic Low Back Pain: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. doi:10.1016/j.apmr.2017.03.028
- Prescription Custom Orthotics and Shoe Inserts. (n.d.). American Podiatric Medical Association.
- Sol, N. (April 3, 2003). When Orthotics Can Treat Low Back Pain. Podiatry Today. Volume 16, Issue 4.