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Chronic feet pain only, from sciatica/herniated discs??

Hey all,

Ive had chronic burning and aching pain in both feet (mainly heels) for over a year now (ever since I got out of military training) regardless of whether or not I'm sitting or standing. I've gone through pretty much every treatment for plantar fasciitis including the TOPAZ procedure a few months ago which didn't help at all.   Dozens of orthotics (custom and OTC) have never worked. All foot imaging (MRI, emg, ultrasound, x rays, blood tests) comes up normal. 

Most doctors and PT's I've worked with have assumed that all the pain I've been feeling has been localized in the foot since up until recently, I never had any back, butt, or leg pain.

I was finally sent to a neurologist for this constant burning, weakness and aching I was feeling in my feet. The only reason he suspected a possibility of this coming from my back is because I told him recently I would get a mild ache down my legs into my ankle when I'm about to have a bowl movement. But it usually wasnt very noticeable. So I did an MRI and he said there were 3 herniated discs in my back, one of which was broad based and going into the L5 S1 nerve. EMG/NCS also confirmed a "chronic" pinched nerve. 

He was very surprised that I only had pain in my feet and not really in the leg or buttox. He said usually JUST foot pain is localized in the feet.

My question is, could this be the reason for all the foot pain I've been having? Can a herniated disc or sciatica mimic symptoms of plantar fasciitis? Just curious if anyone has had similar experiences.




  • If you got an MRI it would seem obvious that the discs are connected to your foot pain. Two years before I had symptoms of a herniated disc I also had "plantar fasciitis" in my right heel, which went away when I stopped running but I'm making an educated guess that this was an early symptom of a disc which was slowly being pushed out and I'm sure it's not a coincidence that my herniation was right-sided. I would think the "broad based" herniation is probably mostly responsible for pain in both feet but you should ask your doctor. To be quite honest it seems a bit odd that you'd ask this question in a forum when it sounds as if you've already been given a definitive diagnosis.
  • I have heel pain as well on both of my feet. The last MRI I had was in 2013, and showed a significant disc protrusion at the L5S1, after doing deadlifts with the incorrect form. First noticed the heel pain in maybe around 2016.

    My calves are very weak due to the disc protrusion on the nerve. It seem like it is always tight in spasm. If I attempt a single rep of calf raise with the full stretch and contraction, it would cramp. I supposed the nerve was pressed on L5S1 has died over the years? My big toes are also partially numb.

    Why we are experiencing heel pain is not hard to figure out. When your nerve get pressed on by the disc herniation/bulge. The muscle related, in this case would be the calves. It would weaken and has no strength. When your calve has no strength, all the body weight/pressure will be on the heel instead of both the ball and heel. Thus experiencing the pain, because of muscle weakness caused by the nerve. 
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  • MarWinMarWin OhioPosts: 704
    The heel is just below the lowest major load bearing joint in our body (the ankle). Considering this is where most of our weight is being bored as we stand (pressure is related to depth), then it might make sense to look at all the load bearing joints at the ankle and above - ankles, knees, hips, shoulders. If they're not all in vertical alignment it could cause your weight to be improperly distributed across the foot and causing much stress on the plantar fascia. You can take off your shoes, close your eyes and determine by feel where you feel most of the pressure (not pain) on the bottom of your feet. That can mean front to back, and left to right on the bottoms of each foot. Also which foot feels like it is bearing more weight? You may want to get with a great chiropractor to have them determine what condition your alignment is in, and also get with a professional on either Muscle Balance Therapy or Postural Alignment Therapy. The PAT is what helped me the most.   
  • memerainboltmemerainbolt IndianaPosts: 6,478
    hello hotsauce3mk

    welcome to spine-health

    you have already gotten some very good advice from everyone that has replied, i hope this has helped you.

    i just wanted to welcome you and give you references for more information.
    please click on the welcome link below as well as the system tutorial.

    welcome to spine health

    all new members should take the system tutorial 

    take care and keep us posted.
    Veritas-Health Forum Moderator
    Please read my  Medical History
  • tjlazerttjlazer TacomaPosts: 44
    It is a bit odd that you don't have much leg or butt pains.  How about back pain, have you had any at all?  Even in the past?  I have had incidents of back pain that wouild then go away over the pasy 25 years.  This on going pain and recovery took it's tolll on my poor sciatic nerves and now I have sciatica down both legs and feet.  I also have numb burning and painful feet.  Had a Micro D in Jan '17 at L5/S1 as it was pushing on the S1 nerves.  Hoping to get better but it can take years for nerves to heal.
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  • thank you everyone for your responses.

    kundabuffer- i have been given a definitive diagnosis on the disc herniation but no doctor since then has given me a definitive answer on whether or not that's causing my foot pain. so yes, it would seem "obvious". but between my podiatrist, pt, and neurologist, they all seem to have different opinions on what's causing it and think there's more going on. which is very frustrating. i've posted on a forum just to see if anyone has had this specific issue as my doctors say they haven't come across anyone that has only foot/heel pain from a herniation and hardly any back, leg or butt pain. 

    potassiummix and marwin- thank you, this actually makes a lot of sense. my calves (and lower leg muscles in general) have always felt just unusually weak (but not painful) since this all started. it does feel like the load bearing/alignment could be off and i can tell my right foot is bearing more weight than my left, and that's where most of the pain is. i'll bring this up to the chiropractor i'm seeing this afternoon.

    tjlazer-  no back pain at all since this all started. 8 or 9 years ago when i was lifting, i pulled a muscle pretty bad in the lower back and it was painful for about a week, but then it went away. no other back pain since then. hope you feel better.

    thanks again!

  • Yes!  My husband had the same thing, very little leg pain, but constant pain in both feet. We spent 9 months on every possible test and imaging before someone bothered to X-ray his back. Then another 9 months before he had surgery. He's 4 weeks post-op and we hope it did the trick. 
  • @HubsBackSux Thanks for your comment. How is his foot pain now that he's had the surgery? I'm giving physical therapy one more try for 6-8 weeks before I do the surgery. 

  • It's a s-l-o-w healing process. He was compressed for 18 months, then had a laminotomy, facetionomy, nerve decompression, removal of bone spurs, shaving of ligaments, and a foraminotomy. They say 12 weeks to see improvement, up to a year to heal. Still, we would do it again. He couldn't go on living this way. Nothing conservative worked, and his PT told us no amount of therapy could ever pull the bone spurs out of his nerves. Time will tell. 

  • Also, I get REALLY sick of the whole "pain in the feet comes from the feet" crap. Our podiatrist made thousands on that BS and it just isn't true.  Our lives have been set back 2 years, and we had to stop trying for a baby due to that complete and utter BS. 

    There is a great chiropractor who does You Tube videos, one of which is on this exact issue. 

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