Lower Back Pain & Bunions: Could They Be Connected? | Triad Foot & Ankle Center

Lower Back Pain & Bunions: Could They Be Connected?

Lower back pain impacts millions of Americans every day and is one of the main causes of disability in America. It is treated with everything from over the counter medications to invasive surgeries, but it is possible that lower back pain is a result of bunions!

The big toes are important because they affect balance and gait. They push off the ground and are partly responsible for proper alignment of the foot and ankle while walking. Bunions significantly alter a person’s gait, or alignment when walking, especially when the person overcompensates for pain at the bunion site. Usually, bunions are located on the big toe and are characterized by a large bony protrusion on the outside big toe joint. Naturally, these protrusions are a nuisance when wearing shoes, but can also be painful when barefoot.

At first, you may not notice a change in your gait, but over time, your body’s compensation to this altered pattern will certainly create misalignment in various areas of the body. A subtle ‘waddling’ gait, which is identified by a slight shift in weight to the outside of the foot, shifts weight away from the body’s midline. This swaying from side to side can strain the lower back and cause pain if the gait is not corrected. Movement and stabilization of the legs is powered by your lower back; therefore, pain can occur when the stability is compromised with foot deformities such as bunions.

When a nerve in your back is chronically irritated, local muscles that stabilize the spine begin to atrophy or get weaker. The affiliated muscles in the legs, as a result, weaken as well. At this point, the muscles that support the foot when you walk, run or stand cannot effectively do their job. This causes foot pronation, which can lead to back pain. Bunions are largely hereditary, but can also be more likely to form or worsen with prolonged pronation of the foot. In other words, lower back pain can be caused by bunions, but bunions can also form due to lower back pain.

While lower back pain is very common, there is a key differentiator in determining if your back pain is due to bunions. Typically, bunions cause back pain with prolonged walking. However, many forms of low back pain are caused by prolonged sitting, which can result in degenerative back pain.

First and foremost, it’s important to establish whether you have bunions by visiting a podiatrist. If you do, there are a variety of treatment options ranging from custom orthotics to corrective surgery to remove the bunion. Once treatment has been established, notice if your back pain improves. If not, seeing an orthopedic specialist in spinal health will determine if there is another cause.

Read more about the treatment options for bunions here. Request an appointment with one of our podiatric specialists today for a foot exam by clicking here or call any of our convenient office locations in the Piedmont Triad.

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