Can foot stretches and exercises help relieve back pain? Many chiropodists and other healthcare professionals agree – it’s a resounding yes!
Focusing on the feet to help your back may seem like a hopeless endeavour. However, those struggling with back pain may not realize how much they relate to each other.
To help you understand, we’ve written an article about how working the muscles in the feet can work wonders for your back pain. Today, we’re going to:
- Explain the link between your feet and back pain
- Explain why foot stretches can help your back pain
- Provide you with a selection of simple foot stretches and exercises that you can master in no time
The Link Between Your Feet and Back Pain
Simply put, everything in your body is connected. A network of tissue extends from your feet and up towards your head. Focusing on your feet strengthens the starting point and gives your body a good base. This reduces strain as you travel upwards, which has a positive effect on your lumbar spine (lower back).
There’s also the link between your lower back, nerves, and feet. Compression or pinching of the sciatic nerve that runs from your lower back down your legs can cause pain in the lower back and your feet.
Furthermore, if you notice ankle pain or foot pain and pain in the lumbar spine (lower back), the culprit may be a biomechanical foot condition like flat feet. Flat feet can mess up your posture and your gait by forcing your thighs and knees to rotate inward. This causes your lower back to curve more than necessary, placing pressure on your knees, hips and back.
Speaking of your gait, those who overpronate (feet turn inward while walking) are more likely to experience lower back pain as the feet repeatedly turn inward. If you do the opposite (supinate – feet turn outward while walking), you may experience a misalignment of the spine and hips, also causing lower back pain.
Not only can foot pain cause back pain, but back pain can also cause foot pain. Certain types of arthritic conditions that affect the back, like ankylosing spondylitis, have been linked to Achilles’ tendonitis and plantar fasciitis. This is because the arthritic damage affects our posture and shock absorption, so our feet and ankles then have to pick up the burden.
Supportive footwear also contributes to spinal health more than you know. The key is arch support, which helps align your body and readjusts how your feet hit the ground with each step. Poor arch support will directly affect your posture and gait while causing lower back pain.
How Can Foot Stretches Help With Back Pain?
Once you understand the link between your feet and your back, it becomes clear how foot stretches can help manage pain.
First, the spine needs help from other body parts to operate properly. Excess weight, your biomechanical gait, and other factors can shift the spine into an irregular position, causing back pain and poor posture. Spreading the toes, lifting the arch of the foot, and properly positioning your weight on your feet all help to re-position your spine. Stretching and exercising the feet also strengthens the muscles and ligaments in the feet, which helps them better support your bodyweight and reduces strain on other parts of the body.
Furthermore, foot exercises and stretches help stimulate blood flow that reaches your legs and lower back. A solid boost in blood circulation will reduce stiffness, relax your muscles and help with flexibility.
Foot Stretches For Back Pain
Now it’s time to work on the issue! With daily performance, the following foot stretches can help you manage aches and pains!
- Preferably with an exercise mat, sit with your legs extended in front of you.
- Place a towel underneath your foot, in between the toes and heel.
- With a firm grip on the ends of the towel, pull back the towel, feeling the stretch in your foot. (You may also feel a slight stretch in your hamstring too.)
- Hold for 30 seconds and repeat three to five times.
- Repeat with your other foot.
- You can be seated or standing for this stretch.
- Your feet should be hip-width apart and your arms by your sides.
- Rotate one foot, making small circles with your ankles for about 30 seconds.
- Repeat in the other direction.
- Repeat with your other foot in both directions.
Ball Roll / Foot Massage
- Place the middle of your foot on top of a tennis ball, therapeutic massage ball, or frozen water bottle.
- Roll your foot back and forth and in a circular motion, paying attention to every foot area.
- Spend about 30 seconds rolling and then switch feet to repeat.