Many athletes suffer from lower back pain associated with muscle strains or spasms. If the back pain is not due to a direct trauma and no numbness goes down the leg, it may be due to a structural weakness. Always look to the feet, which maybe the problem.

A common cause of lower back problems is a biomechanically weak foot, especially the Morton's foot. This foot type is structurally and mechanically imbalanced, allowing the foot to pronate, or roll in. To add to the problem, running on the hard roads causes trauma with retrograde forces up the foot, legs and lower back.

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As the foot pronates, it causes the arch to flatten and the leg to rotate inward, creating a forward tilt of the upper hip. This in turn can cramp the lower back and stretch and strain the muscles around the hip, which can press on the sciatic nerve as it passes the hip joint and may cause sciatica -- an irritation of the sciatic nerve. As well as lumbar-Sacral instability.

A leg-length discrepancy -- one leg shorter than the other -- may also be a structural weakness, causing a tilt of the hip and resulting in lower back pain. Tight hamstring muscles are a common result from many athletic activities, which will place undue stress on the lower back structures and thus contribute to lower back instability.

A biomechanical balancing of the foot and leg for structural and muscular imbalance may be an important factor for supporting the lower back problem.

Dr. Robert F. Weiss, a sport podiatrist, was a member of the Medical Advisory Committee of the 1984 and 1988 Olympic Marathon Trials.