Shoe orthotics / inserts deserve a little more appreciation for the back pain relief they provide. Why may you ask? Well, many things can cause your back to hurt, from a ruptured disc to a misaligned vertebra. You may not think it is true, but your feet and the way you walk can have a profound impact on your back’s health.
The way the foot hits the ground, how you follow through on a step, and the shoes you wear can cause a back problem or make an existing back problem worse.
Fortunately, you can use specialized devices that insert into your shoe called orthotics. They can correct a number of back, foot, and gait problems, and help you to relieve your back pain non-surgically.
We are well aware of the power of shoe inserts and the huge positive impact it can make on your spine and vertebrae. Since our philosophy is to use the least invasive methods first, we can refer you to orthotics specialists that can help you analyze your specific walking gait and create a custom orthotic for your foot.
With patience and attention to your particular foot problem, orthotics can be an inexpensive and easy way to correct an aching back.
What are Shoe Orthotics?
Shoe orthotics are specialized inserts that fit against inside your shoe. Orthotics is a booming industry, and it comprises the inserts you see at the grocery store, custom fitted inserts, and custom made shoes. Some people need orthotics to simply cushion their feet from strenuous activity or protect against athlete’s foot. However, many people have structural foot problems that require the use of an insert.
For instance, Morton’s neuroma, or a type of nerve problem in the foot, is treated through the use of an orthotic that spreads the bones of the foot. If you have a simple problem, such as flat feet, you may be able to get by with an orthotic over the counter. For more persistent or serious foot and back problems, it may be medically necessary for an orthotic that is custom made for your foot and your condition.
Problems with the Feet that Cause Back Pain
The most common problem with the feet that causes back pain is having one leg longer than the other. Although many people are unaware of it, one longer leg is actually quite common. The difference between the two is so subtle that you are unable to detect it, but it can throw off your gait and cause back pain.
Fortunately, this is an easy fix, but it can often take several tests, such as a gait test, to determine that leg length is the problem affecting your back.
Another common cause of back pain is having flat feet. Flat feet do not properly support the weight of the body, and this can lead to abnormal walking patterns. When you walk to compensate for flat feet, it can cause problems with your hips and lower back. In addition, overpronation, or when your ankle rolls inward with each step, can affect gait and cause back pain.
The solution for most of these problems is an orthotic insert to correct the foot issue that affects gait. Once gait is normalized, the back pain should resolve.
Orthotics for Back Pain
The treatment for one leg longer than the other is a simple heel lift orthotic. This is usually applied to the shorter leg, and it compensates for the differences in length, no matter how small. These inserts usually have to be custom made because they are based on the precise length of your legs and help you to reach the optimal length.
Merely increasing the height of your heel on one side could lead to further back pain if you the lengths are not precisely compensated for.
Orthotics for flat feet and overpronation do not have to be nearly as precise as leg length orthotics. Usually, over the counter inserts that have a strong arch support can help to overcome both of these conditions. They will help to improve your gait and take the stress off of the back. You should consider, however, that orthotics in themselves are rarely enough to relieve back pain. Exercises to loosen the muscles of the hips and lower back are essential in treating back pain related to gait and foot problems.
Getting a Custom Orthotic
Custom orthotics may be necessary in cases of severe flat feet, overpronation that does not respond to over the counter treatments, and leg length differences. You will likely need to see an allied health professional known as an orthotics and prosthetics professional. They will take precise measurements of your foot and leg, and occasionally, they will take a plaster cast of your foot.
From these measurements, they create a plastic insert that is molded to your specific requirements. For instance, the molded plastic orthotic will increase the arch in your foot to a precise height. You will need a prescription from your doctor – either primary care or a podiatrist – to receive one of these orthotics, and they are usually covered by health insurance for treatment resistant cases.
It can take a few weeks to receive your custom orthotic, and it may need adjustments when it arrives. You should aim to develop a close relationship with the orthotics professional to ensure that you obtain the best fit and therapeutic value from the orthotic.
If you have back pain and suspect it may be from a foot abnormality, BASIC Spine can help. We can evaluate your back for other problems, such as disc herniation or misaligned vertebrae, and help you decide if orthotics will help you. Contact us today for a consultation.