As stated earlier, lower back conditions may prompt a series of symptoms that produce foot pain, usually associated with leg pain (sciatica).

To understand how lower back conditions may be the source of pain in the foot, one needs to learn about the largest single nerve in the human body, the sciatic nerve.


In This Article:

The Sciatic Nerve and Foot Pain

Composed of five nerves that join at the lower part of the spine, the sciatic nerve extends down the back of each leg all the way to the toes and connects the spinal cord with the many of the muscles in the leg and foot.

When the sciatic nerve becomes impaired in any way, such as from a low back problem that pinches or compresses the nerve roots that join together to form the sciatic nerve, a series of symptoms generally known as sciatica may manifest in the form of leg pain and foot pain as opposed to back pain.

See Leg Pain and Numbness: What Might These Symptoms Mean?


Low Back Conditions That May Cause Foot Pain

The following lower back conditions may prompt sciatica, which may in turn lead to referred pain in the leg and the foot:

Herniated Lumbar Disc

A herniated disc occurs when a disc's inner core pushes or leaks out through its outer core. This process causes pressure on the nerve root, which may radiate pain down the sciatic nerve into the leg and foot, with symptoms varying and depending on the location of the herniated disc.

See What's a Herniated Disc, Pinched Nerve, Bulging Disc...?

Related foot pain treatments tend to be non-surgical but may require a back surgery called microdiscectomy to remove a portion of the disc, relieve pressure on the nerve and calm any referred pain in the foot.

See How Microdiscectomy Surgery Is Performed


Lumbar Spinal Stenosis

This lower back condition refers to the spinal nerve roots being compressed or choked, which may lead to referred foot pain symptoms including weakness, numbness and a tingling sensation in the foot. Related foot pain treatments include primarily nonsurgical measures to address the spinal stenosis in the lower back. Rarely, surgical decompression may be necessary.

See Lumbar Spinal Stenosis


With this low back condition, a vertebra slips over the next vertebra, thus compromising the spine segment and potentially leading to a pinched nerve that can cause pain to travel down the leg and into the foot. Treatments for spondylolisthesis may include nonsurgical or surgical approaches.

See Degenerative Spondylolisthesis

An Important Point about Foot Pain Diagnosis

It is crucial that the specific cause of foot pain be accurately diagnosed by an appropriately trained physician. If the foot pain may be caused by a problem in one's lower back it is advisable to see a spine specialist for a complete diagnosis of potential lower back conditions that may be causing the leg pain and foot pain.

Dr. Grant Cooper is a physiatrist with several years of clinical experience, specializing in the non-surgical treatment of spine, joint, and muscle pain. He is the Co-Founder and Co-Director of Princeton Spine and Joint Center and the Co-Director of the Interventional Spine Program.