Back pain remains a chiropractor’s top patient complaint, and foot orthotics for back pain is a research-based relief option
Lower-back pain is the most common complaint that brings patients into a chiropractic office. In fact, chiropractic is the most popular treatment among patients seeking an alternative to standard care, such as prescription or over-the-counter pain medication, physical therapy, or surgery in severe or chronic cases of lower back pain.
Approximately 22 million Americans visit chiropractors each year. A total of 7.7 million, or 35% of these patients, are seeking relief from lower-back pain as a result of accidents, injuries, or illness.
Of course, the mainstay of the chiropractic approach to lower-back pain will be spinal adjustments to properly align the vertebrae, particularly focused on the lumbar region and the sacroiliac joint. Additional therapies might include the application of heat or ice, as well as stretching exercises.
There may be the risk of the spine slipping back out of alignment over time, which can be frustrating for both DCs and patients. While home exercises and posture correction can help to a certain degree, a better solution may be one that quickly becomes part of your patients’ daily routine. Foot orthotics for back pain may be ideal, as they are a passive means to stabilize the spine, thus helping it stay aligned and reducing back pain.
A 2014 article in the Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation discussed results from a randomized, controlled trial to examine the effect of shoe orthotics in treating chronic back pain.1
For this study, a group of 225 adult patients with low-back pain lasting three months or longer were randomized to receive custom foot orthotics, chiropractic treatment and orthotics, or no treatment (waitlisted). Outcome measures included perceived back pain and functional health. Assessments were taken at the end of the study, and then after 12 weeks and an additional three, six, and 12 months after the study was completed.1
At the end of the study, all three groups showed significant improvement in terms of average back pain. However, only those study subjects who received both orthotics and chiropractic care also showed significant improvement in function. Based on this finding, the researchers concluded: “Six weeks of prescription shoe orthotics significantly improved back pain and dysfunction compared with no treatment. The addition of chiropractic care led to higher improvements in function.”
Another article from 2014 in the Journal of Manipulative and Physiologic Therapeutics reported on the results from a similar study on the effects of custom orthotics on pain, disability, recurrence of spinal fixation, and muscle dysfunction for adults with lower-back pain for at least one month.2 All subjects received five visits of chiropractic care, and either custom orthotics or a flat insole as the control, over the course of four weeks. Those subjects who wore the custom orthotics showed improvement on some of the outcome measurements, particularly spinal fixation.2
This research on foot orthotics for back pain is interesting because it shows that while there is clear improvement in lower-back pain from chiropractic care, adding in orthotics provides even more improvement. At a practical level, it will allow your patients to maximize on the benefits from chiropractic adjustments between visits by keeping their spine in proper alignment.
- Cambron JA, Dexheimer JM, Duarte M, Freels S. Shoe orthotics for the treatment of chronic low back pain: A randomized controlled trial. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. 2017 Sep;98(9):1752-1762.
- Rosner AL, Conable KM, Edelmann T. Influence of foot orthotics upon duration of effects of spinal manipulation in chronic back pain patients: A randomized clinical trial. Journal of Manipulative and Physiologic Therapeutics. 2014 Feb;37(2):124-140.