Hidden causes of low back pain and sciatica – part 2: your ankles

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Posted 08.02.2020

Last time we introduced the concept that there are often hidden or distant problems which can have a significant impact and actually be leading causes for your low back pain or sciatica. At a simple level you will have local problems which you have likely been told are causing your back pain, which is obviously correct. However very often it is from somewhere else that causes this in the first place.

For a review to see what we mean by ‘hidden’ you can read part 1 of the article here however for now we are going to jump straight into the second ‘hidden cause’

Hidden cause 2 = Your ankles are causing your problem

This one might not take as much explaining as our previous problem (where the neck problem caused a low back problem) but we still need to understand some of the biomechanics to appreciate how low back pain or sciatica can occur:

When you are walking or running, the ankle acts as a hinge joint to allow your leg to move behind you as your body moves forward. If it doesn’t have the full flexibility to bend at the joint then your body still has to move forwards from somewhere, and it does this in the low back almost leaning back a little with each step. This repetitive ‘leaning back’ causes pressure on the joints in the spine which can over time build up to cause low back pain and sciatica.

Reduced ankle flexibility can also cause huge issues when performing a deep squat. You should be keeping your heels on the floor as you go into a squat. If you do not have enough ankle flexibility (specifically dorsiflexion) in this movement, then your lower back will have to compensate and will go into flexion (aka it will bend) towards the end of the squat.

If you go to the gym you may see (or even have to do this yourself!) people standing with their heels on plates to get a deeper squat and ensure their spine is kept in a neutral position. As with the above example, it is the repetition of this movement that can over time cause pressure to build up and may give you disc issues which can result in back pain or sciatica.

Test time!

For this we have a test to see if your ankle has enough movement, or if it could potentially be an issue. Introducing the solues stretch test:

  1. Put your foot on the floor with the big toe 10cm away from the wall
  2. See if you can touch your knee to the wall in front
  3. Important! Your heel must remain on the ground at all times!
  4. Repeat on the other side

If you failed this test then ask your Chiropractor to go through this with you on your next appointment – we can show you the correct stretches or treatment when you are next in clinic.

Andrew Harlow – Derby Chiropractor

Andrew made me feel comfortable immediately, listening carefully and giving me time to explain my concerns. He asked questions to elicit the exact nature of my problems and after treatment gave me advice on how to avoid problems in the future. His understanding, patience, and holistic approach has ensured I got better after treatment and also am able to keep active and fit. - Kate Tollervey

I have seen a lot of people over the years and like Andrew’s approach as he is extremely logical and always finds the root cause of the problem. Very happy to be back on the golf course. - Sam Warrington

Andrew dealt with me in a professional manor and was incredibly knowledgeable and thorough in his treatment. Highly recommended. Thank you very much. - Christine Charles

I have been treated by him over the last 6 years and have always been very impressed. - Robert Cooper