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Chronic low back pain may cause foot pain

Low back pain, called lumbar disc disease or lumbar radiculitis, can often contribute to foot pain. This article discusses how chronic back pain often contributes to foot pain and and the neuroanatomy of the lumbar spine, leg and foot.

My back pain can make my feet hurt?

How chronic lumbar disc disease is a frequent cause of leg and foot pain

Chronic lumbar pain may cause foot painIn a previous post, I listed lumbar disc disease as a differential diagnosis for Morton’s neuroma.  The lumbar region of the spine is the lower back, just above the pelvis.  The nerves that supply sensation and motor function to the leg and foot exit the spin at the level of the lumbar spine.  Any injury or deformity of the lumbar spine may affect the nerves that innervate the leg and foot.  Conditions of the lumbar spine that may contribute to foot pain include:

  • Lumbar disc disease
  • Herniated lumbar disc
  • Arthritis of the lower back
  • Age-related narrowing of the spine due to disc atrophy

In a healthy back, the nerves of the leg and foot exit the spine through a small opening called a foramen.  Any factor that contributes to narrowing of the foramen will place compression on the lumbar nerves creating pain in the leg and foot.  In advanced cases of lumbar nerve compression, patients will lose strength and motor function of the leg.

Symptoms of leg and foot pain due to disc disease include pain on the side and front of the thigh, pain down the side of the leg and dull aching pain of the foot.  When leg and foot pain is caused by compression of the nerve roots of the lumbar spine, this condition is called lumbar radiculitis.  The distribution of the nerves of the leg and foot are seen in this image.

image of the nerves of the lower extremities

Lumbar radiculitis should be a differential diagnosis for leg and foot pain.


Dr. Jeffrey Oster
Jeffrey A. Oster, DPM

Medical Advisor

Updated 12/24/19

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