Back Behind the Wheel: Feet — a Pain in the Back?

by Dr. Jerry Singh

Improper biomechanics of your feet can lead to many chronic musculoskeletal problems.

Your foot is a complex structure consisting of 26 bones, 33 joints and 126 muscles/ligaments. The average person spends four hours per day on their feet. In a day he or she takes approximately 8,000 to 10,000 steps. Each step you take exerts a force that travels through your foot and body, which is equal to 50 per cent more than your body weight. Your feet act as shock absorbers and a lever to propel your body forward (walking). If the tiny joints in your feet are not aligned and moving properly, the ability of your feet to function properly is compromised. Since the entire body is interrelated, if there are mechanical problems with your feet, these can in turn affect your knees, hips, back and neck.

One of the most common foot disorders affecting the kinetic chain of the body is excessive pronation of the foot (the ankle bones leaning inward), resulting in pes planus (flat feet). Flat feet are common and are a result of the longitudinal arch of the foot collapsing upon weight bearing. This arch is an integral component of the foot’s biomechanics, which can also affect the entire musculoskeletal system. It is responsible for reducing the ground forces that travel through the body, protecting it from destructive torque, bending and shearing stresses. A normal arch promotes stability and alignment of the foot and the entire body. If your arch has collapsed, the ability to cushion and absorb ground forces is reduced. As a result, there is an increase in the forces that travel through the joints of the body. Due to the abnormal biomechanics of the foot, this may lead to other foot conditions such as plantar fasciitis, shin splints, heel spurs, bunions, low back, hips and knee pain.

There are two types of flat feet; flexible and rigid. A flexible flat foot is most common and is caused by ligamentous laxity and underdeveloped arches. Most children are born with flat feet and by the age of ten the longitudinal arch is developed. In some people the arch does not develop properly, resulting in a flexible flat foot. A rigid flat foot is characterized by restricted movement of the ankle joint and is due to congenital abnormalities, trauma and arthritis.

Luckily, the majority of people who have flat feet do not experience pain, discomfort or any other physical limitations. Unfortunately, pes planus cannot be prevented, but it can be managed. The reason why some people develop it and others do not, is still a mystery. It has been suggested that there may be a genetic link, but at this time it is still unknown.

Orthotic therapy is the primary mode of treating flat feet. Flexible orthotics supports the longitudinal arch of the foot, restoring the normal alignment and biomechanics of the foot.

Your feet are important. If you have chronic back, knee, hip, foot and leg pain, get your feet checked because they may be the cause of your pain.

– Dr. Jerry Singh, B. Kin., D.C., runs Trans Canada Chiropractic at 230 Truck Stop in Woodstock, Ont. He can be reached at 1-888-252-7327, or e-mail

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