Patient with foot pain

Seattle Chiropractor


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By: Dr. Christina Van Moorsel

Here’s a number that may surprise you – leg length discrepancy is pretty prevalent and can be found in 90% of the population.

Yes. You read that right – nine out of 10 people have legs with different lengths. But fortunately, only a small percentage have a leg length inequality of more than 5 mm (that’s about a quarter-inch).

There are two different types of leg length discrepancies: anatomical and functional. Anatomical short leg is the physical shortening of the bones in the lower limb from the hip joint to the ankle. Functional short leg is the shortening of a limb due to altered limb bio-mechanics. This can happen from joint fixation, muscle weakness and/or shortening or structural misalignment.

Having a leg length discrepancy can result in several musculoskeletal and bio-mechanical issues. It is common with chronic low back pain, hip pain, and knee pain. The leg length inequality causes torsion in the pelvis causing the sacral base to become uneven which alters the bio-mechanics and muscular activation. The larger the leg length discrepancy the greater the effects on the lower spine in some cases causing scoliosis. The uneven distribution of stress could be a predisposing factor for osteoarthritis of the hip and arthritic changes in the lumbosacral joints.

Treatment for leg length inequality depends on the type of discrepancy.

If an anatomical leg length is found then a chiropractor could provide a shoe insert that adjusts the discrepancy and helps with the malalignment of the biomechanics.

If a functional discrepancy is found the chiropractor can adjust malalignments and give stretches and exercises to help target the muscular and biomechanical imbalances.

As mentioned above, leg length discrepancy can be associated with low back pain, hip pain, knee pain and altered biomechanics while walking or running. If you are experiencing any of those symptoms it is a good idea to see a chiropractor. A chiropractor can examine and assess to determine if leg length discrepancy is the source of the pain.

If your chiropractor finds that you have a functional leg length discrepancy due to shortened or weakened muscles, they can prescribe specific stretching and strengthening exercises to help target the imbalance based on what musculature is shortened or weakened.

Sources:

Knutson GA. Anatomic and functional leg-length inequality: a review and recommendation for clinical decision-making. Part I, anatomic leg-length inequality: prevalence, magnitude, effects, and clinical significance. Chiropractic & Osteopathy. 2005 Dec;13(1):11. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1232860/. Last accessed 10.16.2020.

Khamis S, Carmeli E. A new concept for measuring leg length discrepancy. Journal of Orthopaedics. 2017 Jun;14(2):276. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5376249/. Last accessed 10.16.2020

Physiopedia. Leg Length Discrepancy. 2020. Available from: https://www.physio-pedia.com/Leg_Length_Discrepancy#cite_note-:0-1. Last accessed 10.16.2020.

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