Most people wouldn’t even think that there’s any relation between foot and spinal health. The truth is that certain physical conditions affecting your feet can have severe consequences in your spine, and vice versa. You can understand more clearly this complicated relationship if you know the trajectory of the sciatic nerve, and understand a little bit about how weight loads are distributed between your feet and spine, causing foot pain.
The sciatic nerve is very long. It travels from your spine down to your feet and may be the reason why you are experiencing foot pain. Between one vertebral disc and the other, there is a space through which nerves leave and enter the spinal cord. These nerve roots are made of soft tissue that can be compressed by the vertebrae when there is a problem such as disc degeneration or herniated discs. Since these nerves are in charge of gathering the sensations from your limbs, and a nerve compression disrupts their signals, your brain interprets that sensation as pain in the affected area: legs and feet.
When the spine is affected by conditions like osteoarthritis and/or spondyloarthritis, there can also be degeneration of the vertebrae resulting in the same pain sensation. Other spinal reasons for foot pain are spinal curvature disorders. Lordosis and scoliosis are clear examples of that, resulting from an abnormal posture, bone problems, or birth conditions. If the curvature problem is severe enough, it can lead to a similar compression of the spinal roots, sciatic pain, and foot pain.
Additionally, problems in the curvature of the spine can alter the weight-bearing areas of the body, the body regions that receive and balance our weight to keep us standing. Our weight is carried by our spine, limbs, and feet. When one of these components works deficiently or it is affected, the other should double the load and increase the amount of pressure. Since they are not made to sustain such an extra burden, the articulations, bones, and soft tissue start suffering and may result in pain in your lower limb, articulations, and feet.
The reverse is also true. Physical conditions such as flat feet represent a change in the normal configuration of the foot. Instead of a natural curve, the arch of the foot is flat and forces the rest of the limb to lose a natural curve that provides cushion and stability when we walk. Such a change in body configuration causes cramps, plantar fasciitis, and even pain in the lower back when the alteration is considerable enough. Orthopedic shoes are designed to correct the problems in the arch of the foot and to relieve pain.
In other words, the spine and the feet may be quite far from each other, but they share two essential features: they carry nerve fibers and support the weight of the rest of the body. They are closely associated, and different health conditions affecting one of them may impair the function of the other. There is always an underlying cause such as disc degeneration, osteoarthritis, or flat feet, that should be thoroughly diagnosed by your physician.