Are Heel Pain & Back Pain Related?

August 6, 2021

The heels and our back seem miles apart, so could there be a relationship between the two? According to studies, there is, with up to 75% of people with ongoing heel pain being shown to have unmanaged low back pain or low back dysfunction. As podiatrists, this tells us that if our heel pain isn’t resolving, we should also look at the nerve pathway between the lower back, down the leg and to the feet. To help you better understand the connection between the two and what it means, today we’re talking about the back problems that can lead to heel pain at the bottom of your foot. If you have any questions, feel free to send them to us via our Facebook page – we are highly experienced in heel pain and love helping Remuera & Auckland residents get rid of their heel pain.   

Is your heel pain from sciatica?

A well-documented cause of heel pain that starts in the back is from sciatica. Sciatica refers to the compression of the sciatic nerve which starts in your lower back. Damage or irritation can radiate symptoms all the way down to the feet, through the hips, buttocks and legs.  If you have sciatica, you may also notice tingling, numbness, burning around your heel. The pain may be dull or achy, or may shoot up the leg depending on the way you stand. You may also notice slower reflexes or muscle spasms.  

Is your heel pain from problems in the spine?

While the sciatic nerve is a commonly affected nerve, other nerves and problems may also result in heel pain. These include:
  • A herniated disc in your lumbar spine: when the contents of one of your intervertebral discs leak or bulge
  • Degenerative disc disease: when the effects of ageing cause your intervertebral discs to narrow or shrink 
  • Spondylolisthesis: when a vertebra slips over the one below it
  • Spinal stenosis: when the small bony openings of the spinal nerves narrow
  • Ankylosing spondylitis – an inflammatory arthritis that affects the spine and sacroiliac joints of the lower back. Can cause back pain, as well as referred pain down the legs

Is your heel pain from problems with your pelvis?

Moving a little further down the spine, there are three problems around the hip region that may also lead to heel pain. These include bursitis (inflammation of a fluid-filled ‘bursa’ sac on the side of the hip which can compress the nerves and affect the muscles in this area), sacroiliac joint dysfunction (when this hip joint doesn’t move in the way it should), and piriformis syndrome (piriformis muscle spasms in the pelvis impinges the sciatic nerve).  

Heel pain may also occur from the compression of other nerves below the back, in the legs

You have a range of nerves travelling down the legs, and when they’re compressed, the effects may also radiate down the leg and to the heels. This includes compression of the peroneal nerve, sural nerve and the tibial nerve (known as tarsal tunnel syndrome). We know – the names are difficult to remember or understand. The most important thing to know is that heel pain isn’t always straightforward – and it isn’t always related to a problem in the heel itself. If your heel pain isn’t getting better, even if you’ve sought professional help from others, we highly encourage you to come in for a second opinion with our experienced podiatrists here at Perform Podiatry. We’ll complete a comprehensive assessment of your lower limbs to understand exactly what’s happening with your heel pain, what’s causing it, and why it hasn’t been getting better. We’ll then create a treatment plan to get you back to walking and living comfortably.   Book your appointment with our team online here or call us on 09 523 2333