Leg length discrepancy: found at fault for low back and lower leg pain

Did you know that 2/3 of our population actually suffer from some sort of leg length discrepancy?Interesting right?! In this blog, we will explore more about what leg discrepancy actually is, what the different types are as well as how to perform a quick self assessment to see if you have a leg length problem.

There are two types of leg length discrepancies: anatomical and functional. Anatomical means one of your lower extremity bones is actually shorter. Anatomical leg length discrepancies are usually congenital meaning you are born that way or it onsets at a young age due to trauma, neoplasm or bone diseases. Correction is usually done either surgery to lengthen the short bone or using a heel lift to make the shorter side longer.

A functional leg length discrepancy occurs as a compensation problem in your body such as a rotated pelvis, scoliosis or increased tightness in one side of your back muscles. Lets use your back muscles as an example one of your back muscles quadrates lumborum. It is a big muscle that starts from your back and insert on the top your pelvis. Once it is tight, it will drive your pelvis up towards your rib cage which will eventually shorten your leg on the same side. That type of leg length discrepancy is classified as functional because it can be corrected once you mobilize the muscle.

What are the harms of leg length discrepancies?

#1 problem is the gait deviations. Due to unevenness in your leg length, you will compensate by hiking your hip to advance your longer leg or you may drag your foot on the ground, and you would be weight bearing unequally. Certain muscles on one side of your body will always be working harder, joints will be weight bearing more which will create an unequal pull, and wear and tear in your system.

When you are working out, one side of your body will be dominating over the other side which may cause chronic injuries such as knee tendonitis, Achilles tendonitis, plantar fasciitis, back spasms,an possible onset of disc bulging in your spine.

Are you a runner who is experiencing calf pain receptively only on one side? Are you an athlete who tends to get tendonitis in the same knee? Are you suffering form back pain that tends to jolt only on the same side of your back? The reason for all of these conditions may be because you have a leg length discrepancy and solution is to correct it first, followed by correcting your movement biomechanics.

Learn how to do a quick self assessment right now…

Stand in front of a mirror in your relaxed stance. You are looking for any height difference or asymmetry side to side.

Start at your shoulders- are they even or one is hiked up?

Find the front pokey part of your pelvis bone and compare right to left

Look at your knees does one appear to be higher?

Look at your ankles and your feet? Are they aligned or one foot is collapsing in more?

If your conclusion is “yes, two halves of my body are not symmetrical”, then you MAY have a leg length problem and the only way it can be confirmed is by a medical profession such as a physical therapist, chiropractor, orthopedist etc. If your doctor confirms, then the next step is to figure out whether its anatomical or functional. At this point, your leg length problem is more likely to be functional because anatomical ones are somewhat obvious and your pediatrician, your teacher or someone figures out there is an unevenness when you are growing up.

Did you know if you are mobilizing and doing muscle work regularly, you do not have to worry about secondary compensations such as leg length discrepancies? It is never too late!

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