Treating back pain is a common occurrence in healthcare. At body with soul we believe that an interdisciplinary approach yields the best outcome to such issues. That is why Podiatry and Osteopathy work collaboratively to assess and treat the many facets of muscular and biomechanical abnormalities that may contribute to back pain.

Jenny Mullen (BSc (hons) Osteopathy, BSc Sports Rehabilitation with sports science and Osteopath at The Osteopathic Centre @ Body with Soul) explains;

Osteopathy utilizes a holistic approach, it looks at the inter-relationship of the structure and function of the body and aims to find the cause of the dysfunction or pain. Osteopaths will not only examine the site of pain but will also examine areas of the body above and below the painful area to check that they are functioning optimally.

Back pain is a common complaint that osteopaths deal with, 70-80% of the population experience back pain at some time in their life. During the initial consultation the osteopath will examine the patients overall standing posture from the feet up to the neck and head. The patient will be asked to perform some simple movements and any joints that appear to be functioning below optimal will be further assessed.

The functioning of the lower limb is closely related to the functioning of the lower back. If the joints of the foot are not moving optimally than they will not be able to transfer the forces of the load they are carrying when walking or running. This results in the load being transferred further up the chain to the knee, hip or lower back and may lead to dysfunction in these areas.

When treating patients with low back pain, in addition to mobilising the joints of the spine and reducing tension through the spinal muscles osteopaths may mobilise the joints of the feet and ankles to encourage them to function optimally, they may also use techniques to release tension through the muscles of the feet and lower legs. In some cases osteopaths will refer the patient to a podiatrist who specializes in the posture and functioning of the foot. At The Osteopathic Centre we work closely with the team of podiatrists from The Foot Practice, whom provide an in-depth report on their findings of any patients referred to them and vice versa.

Peter Barker (BSc (Hons) Podiatry, and Senior Podiatrist at The Foot Practice @ Body With Soul) explains;

Podiatrists have long recognized the potential link between foot function and back pain. Such a link makes sense, as the feet form the foundations of the bodies overall posture.

We know that excessive pronation and flat feet (pes planus) causes the ankle joint to ‘roll in’ excessively during certain moments in the gait cycle. As a result of this ‘rolling in’ the shin bones are forced to twist in a cork screw motion and the knee and hip joints compensate by rotating internally and the pelvis compensates by tilting forward and down. This then leads to strain on the soft tissues and joints supporting the spinal column such as the muscles, ligaments and intervertebral discs.

Although less common than pronated feet, very high arched rigid feet (pes cavus) may also be related to back pain. This type of foot has poor shock absorption and reduced attenuation of impact at the heel strike phase of gait and can cause abnormal stresses through the knee, hip and back joints.

A leg length discrepancy can arise from a variety of causes including soft tissue compensations and trauma to bony limb length differences, which can affect the biomechanics of the body. Both structural and functional leg length differences are important to identify, especially when low back or hip pain are present as there may be a compensation in the lower back, hips, knees or feet.

A Podiatrists can perform a biomechanical assessment and gait analysis to help determine your lower limb function and prescribe solutions to help with any misalignments that may be causing your pain. We work closely with the osteopathic Centre to provide a holistic management plan and ensure no stone is left unturned when it comes to treating back pain.

Without doubt, there are a multitude of potential reasons for back pain, but for those with chronic back pain of unknown cause it may be worthwhile to consult a Podiatrist and osteopath to have your lower limb musculature, bony alignment and your biomechanics assessed.

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