Can Your Feet Cause Back Pain And Sciatic Pain ?

Back Pain Intro

Back pain  and sciatic pain will never kill you, but they most definitely have some historical form in the area of making people wish they were dead. Most commonly though what back pain does is erode our freedom and our most basic enjoyment of life. Being able to lie down comfortably, sit comfortably, stand comfortably and move around comfortably are all essential ingredients for quality of life. Comfortable movement is how we can connect with eachother, care for ourselves and support our basic needs in a way that is healthy and enjoyable. 

We live in the midsts of a back pain epidemic. Many back pain sufferers also suffer with sciatica or sciatic pain. For reasons as yet fully proven and confirmed by research we have suffered an almighty increase in back pain since the mid 20th century. 

Back pain is virtually invisible to the naked eye of onlookers. If you tell your boss you have back pain she just has to take your word for it. If on the other hand you have rotten teeth, a broken nose or a black eye they are ‘high vis’ complaints over which there is little need for debate of explanation. This ‘invisibility to the naked eye’ is one of the fundamental reasons why we struggle so much to understand back pain and it’s root causes. 

What Are Back Pain & Sciatic Pain?

Most likely pretty much everyone you know understands why tooth decay happens, how it can be prevented and what to do when we fail to prevent it. When it comes to back pain however, there is much debate and many different and often surprisingly strong opinions even from those of us who don’t have much experience with the management of back pain. 

The deeper truth is that in reality when we refer to back pain and sciatic pain as if they are a single condition we are already getting confused, and we aren’t even out of that blocks. Back pain is categorically not ‘a condition’. It is ‘a symptom’ or even ‘set of symptoms’ that are driven by numerous possible underlying issues with health, wellbeing and even disease processes. Even once we have removed all the possible serious ‘medical’ causes of back pain we are still left with a complex spectrum of disorders that can all lead to the ‘pain and discomfort in the lower back, back of leg and pelvis region’ symptoms we call back pain and sciatica. 

To illustrate the experience of suffering with undiagnosed back pain

Back pain is an unpleasant and often life limiting symptom that can be caused by a broad range of underlying issues.

Back Pain / Sciatica And Feet

So in light of discovering that back pain and sciatica aren’t 2 actual conditions we may wish to resume answering our primary question, but just word it a bit more carefully to be accurate. ‘

Are there any common issues with the human foot & leg that can cause pain in the lower back region’. 

The answer is a resounding yes!

There are actually a few main types of back pain and sciatic pain from a biomechanical perspective. You are of course probably aware that there is a type of back pain that is caused by weakness in the core for example. 

There are types of back pain and sciatica pain that are primarily caused by old tracts of scar tissue in the spinal complex, these can come from straight forward injuries and also from habitual patterns of movement. Other forms of back pain and sciatic pain can occur more from emotional trauma than from actually physical issues, although in these cases there are of course always weaknesses and alignment issues too. 

One of the most common causes of pain in the lower back and sciatic region comes from biomechanical stress and strain in the leg and foot. On average we heel strike at least 3 million times per year, in very active people it can be many times that number. This volume of compression and jarring over time is a major source of repetetive loading and strain on the lower spine. 

On top of the nature of this type of ‘work’ we have as a culture chosen to magnify these forces via the design of our urban environment. Heel striking on concrete, tarmac and paving is a starkly different and more strain inducing process than heel striking on soft natural ground. 

On top of that also we live a lot longer than our ancestors did. This means we heel strike onto unnatural hard surfaces for twice as long as our ancestors did. 

And on top of that again … we are extremely sedentary compared to our biological blueprint. This means that our muscle are not as strong as Mother Nature intended. Having weaker muscles means we are less able to support and sustain our bodies through all the repetetive strain that concrete, tarmac and paving exert upon us. 

So… what we have is an excellent recipe for mechanical stress that arises in the feet reverberating through the bones of our lower bodies and lower spines. A build up of strain that most definitely can and most definitely does lead to back pain in a percentage of people.. that’s been my observation anyway.

How Do You Know If YOUR pain is coming from your feet?

Those who are at the most risk are people at the extreme ends of various spectrums. The most active and the least active among us are at greater risk of suffering with back pain that comes from our feet. The most overweight among us and the most skinny and frail of us are at greatest risk of back pain and sciatic pain issues that come from the feet. The most flat footed of us and those of us with the highest arches are at the greatest risk of back pain and sciatic pain issues that come from our feet. 

So how do you tell if your YOUR back pain or sciatica is coming from your feet? Well that’s not always easy to figure out by yourself, to get a full picture it does often take and in depth biomechanical assessment including computerised gait analysis. There are however some fairly classic signs and signals that your back pain is coming from your feet…

  • pain in the back after long walks, long runs or days spent on your feet.
  • back pain triggered by exercise
  • back pain in combination with stubborn foot, ankle, knee or hip pain.
  • back pain even though you have a strong core. 
  • Back pain PLUS a heap of old sports injury episodes

Almost any case of back pain or sciatic pain can come from the feet, it just depends on your own specific biomechanics. 

Image illustrates successfully rehabilitated back issue.

The overwhelming majority of back pain cases are manageable given the right tools.


Life is full of difficult and even insurmountable challenges, back pain  and sciatica rarely need to be among them. If you have had enough of struggling with back pain and you sincerely want to resolve it there is every chance that you can achieve this goal. Be cautiously open minded and take advice only from people who have some serious intensive experience with the topic and it’s management. Eliminating the back ground noise of the army of self anointed pain experts is one way to focus your efforts to resolve your pain. 


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