Could Your Foot Pain Be Caused by a Problem in Your Spine?

A set of spinal nerves pass down your legs from your lower spine, culminating in your feet. Foot pain may occur when the nerve roots of these spinal nerves are irritated or squeezed. When a nerve is squeezed near your shoulder, knee, or in your foot, foot pain may also occur.

A list of popular causes of foot pain and helpful tips are given in this blog to help you understand the root of your foot pain.

Foot pain caused by a spinal problem

Lumbar or sacral spine (lower back) nerve root inflammation or compression can cause sciatica pain to radiate down your leg and into your foot. Specifically, compression of the S1 nerve root can cause pain along the outer side of your foot, also called classic sciatica.

Due to a variety of reasons, nerve roots can be cramped or irritated. Examples which are popular include:

Herniated Disk of the Lumbar

In the lower back, spinal discs play a vital function, acting as shock absorbers between the vertebrae, protecting the upper body and providing a full range of motion in all directions.

However, if a disc herniates and leaks any of its internal content, the disc will easily go from easing everyday life to worsening a nerve, causing back pain and likely pain and symptoms of the nerve down the leg.

Symptoms of disc herniation typically begin for no apparent cause. Or if a person lifts something heavy and/or twists the lower back, movements that put added stress on the discs can occur.

Lumbar herniated discs are a common medical condition, most commonly affecting individuals between the ages of 35 and 50.

Degenerative Disc Lumbar Disease

Degenerative disc disease in the lumbar spine or lower back refers to a condition where low back pain is caused by age-related wear and tear on the spinal disc.

Intervertebral discs are tough, fibrous structures that serve as vertebrae ligaments, absorbing pressure and providing the spinal column with cushioning. To facilitate movement such as bending forward, backward, and side to side, discs are flexible yet robust enough.

Degenerative disc disease is not considered a true disease, despite what the name suggests, nor does it progressively worsen with time. Discs stiffen with use and age naturally, and some disc degeneration is faced by all. Degenerative disc disease applies only to the state of painful disc degeneration, and when the spine eventually stabilizes, it is not unusual for symptoms to be alleviated.

Spondylolisthesis Disorder

Spondylolysis is a disorder in which in a portion of the spine called the pars interarticularis there is a defect. With spondylolisthesis, the defect of the pars interarticularis can be only on one side of the spine (unilateral) or on both sides (bilateral). The most common level found is at L5-S1, although at L4-L5 and rarely at a higher level, spondylolisthesis can occur.

Spinal lumbar stenosis\

Due to a condition called foot drop, the failure to raise the front part of your foot or repeated tripping while walking. Usually, this disorder is caused by L5 nerve root compression. Compression of the L4and/or S1 nerve roots may also occasionally cause a drop in the foot.

Foot pain caused by compression of nerves in the hip, knee, or leg

Foot pain may also happen when nerves in the hip, knee, or leg are squeezed or weakened along their path. For example:

Peroneal neuropathy, When you try to move your foot, a condition where the peroneal nerve is compressed or damaged near the knee can cause foot pain and a drop in the foot.

Sciatic neuropathy or pelvic region (hip) damage to the sciatic nerve can cause foot pain with some degree of weakness along the top of your foot.

Tarsal tunnel syndrome In your ankle region and along the sole of your foot, tibial nerve dysfunction inside the tarsal tunnel of the inner ankle can cause a sharp, shooting pain.

Sural nerve entrapment may take place in the leg or around the ankle, generally causing shooting pain around the outer side of the ankle and/or foot.

Also, on the skin around your toes, corn can grow. As a consequence of excessive friction, corns develop over time, and they may compress nearby nerves, causing pain and other symptoms. Morton’s neuroma, which is a thickening of the tissue around a nerve in the foot, is another potential source of nerve pain in the foot.

How to identify the source of your foot pain

It can be difficult to determine the exact underlying cause, given all the potential causes of nerve pain in the foot. To help you locate the cause of your foot pain, here are a few useful signs:

  • Foot pain following recent lower back, hip, knee, or ankle trauma can help indicate the location of nerve damage.
  • Other signs, such as discomfort, numbness, and/or weakness in the buttock, hip, and knee, can also be associated with foot pain due to nerve root compression or sciatica, and usually involve one leg at a time.
  • Foot pain that occurs after tight boots or shoes may imply compression of the peroneal or sural nerve near the knee or ankle.
  • Sciatic neuropathy can mean foot pain that develops after a hip injection or hip surgery.

Due to nerve damage from systemic disorders, such as diabetes or multiple sclerosis, nerve pain in the foot may also occur.

Schedule a visit with your doctor

To diagnose the cause of your foot pain correctly, it is necessary to make an appointment with your doctor. Foot pain therapies can vary greatly and must be targeted at addressing the root cause, not just masking the symptoms. For instance, heat therapy and exercise may be needed for a lumbar herniated disc, whereas corn on your toe can also be handled with special shoes and warm water.