Are You Taller Than You Should Be? Is One of Your Feet Longer? You may have limb length inequality. Leg length inequality also called “leg length discrepancy” or “unequal leg length” is a commonly encountered pediatric musculoskeletal problem.
Most of the time, the discrepancy is a normal variant rather than a pathologic condition. In these cases, leg length is the result of random genetic variation.
Most of those with a leg length discrepancy learn to adapt to their condition. However, for some, a one-centimeter difference in leg lengths is sufficient to generate problems.
Suppose a leg length discrepancy is not addressed. In that case, there can be several consequences, including having a higher risk of developing patellofemoral joint pain, osteoarthritis, a tendency to limp, or difficulty with physical activities like running. This condition can lead to complex psychosocial issues.
What is Leg Length Inequality?
Leg Length Inequality (LLI) is the unequal length of limb segments compared to other parts of the same extremity. It has the potential to affect both your physical health and the functioning of your body if you try a gym.
A difference in leg length of more than about a half inch (1.3 cm) may lead to occasional back pain. But unless the problem is more severe, you can usually do some simple exercises, wear stiffer shoes, or use custom-made inserts to relieve symptoms. Leg Length Inequality is called a functional disorder if there are no signs of pain in the affected limbs.
What Causes Leg Length Inequality?
There’s not much research on why leg Length Inequality happens, but the likely culprit is:
- A pelvic inclination, such as a sway back, is caused by tight hamstrings and short hip flexors.
- An anatomical (bone) abnormality after a hip or knee replacement.
- Joint inflammation such as juvenile idiopathic arthritis
- Neurologic conditions, such as spasticity, paralytic disorders, and cerebral palsy
There are instances when the cause of limb-length discrepancy remains unknown.
How to Diagnose Leg Length Inequality
There is a general rule for diagnosing and treating leg length inequalities. This rule is to make the two legs stand at the same vertical line after a complete medical examination by an orthopedic surgeon.
When the length of one leg is substantially different from the length of the other leg, doctors will often examine the condition of the pelvis, hip sockets, and hip cartilage.
These bones, joints, and cartilage all have to develop before birth and do not grow after birth. If they do not grow together during childhood, problems with the legs can develop during adulthood.
Your doctor may order additional imaging tests such as X-rays, EOS imaging, CT-scan, and an MRI to confirm the diagnosis and guide the recommended treatment plan.
Chiropractic Management of Leg Length Discrepancy
The pelvis is the foundation for the spine, and a discrepancy in the leg length can affect the spine’s alignment. Although there is no permanent cure for this condition, some people with leg length inequality have been able to use orthotics and corrective exercises to reduce their limp and minimize hip and back pain.
An orthopedic surgeon can recommend a procedure known as an economy to stretch the short leg or to reduce the extended portion. Adherence to a stretching program, however, is not universal. Evidence shows that even a gentle stretch can cause localized trauma, particularly at the musculotendinous junction.
Furthermore, if the discrepancy is large, the shorter limb may already have excessive muscle tension in its musculotendinous unit.
Chiropractic care has long been known to treat various nerve, muscle, bone, and joint malfunctions. Short leg syndrome is one of the most common health problems in which chiropractic care can be helpful.
People are seeking treatment alternatives to pills and surgery for pain relief. Undoubtedly, most painkillers have side effects that may harm humans.
An in-depth evaluation is necessary to make a sound treatment decision. It is crucial to perform a gait analysis, assess muscle strength and length, examine joint mobility, and evaluate foot function thoroughly.
Chiropractors are most familiar with spinal manipulation as a treatment for leg length inequalities.
This treatment option involves the delivery of several gentle thrusts to the spinal column. This procedure aims to return the spine to a normal anatomical position and structure.
Other treatment options include surgery; however, surgery shouldn’t be considered unless a person has a significant difference in leg length (leg length discrepancy).
Follow-up visits to your child’s doctor are recommended no matter what treatment your child received. After the bone heals, you must rebuild both legs’ strength, endurance, and coordination. Your doctor will probably recommend a home exercise program.
If you’re concerned about having one leg shorter than the other, keep in mind that short legs don’t have to cause pain or be a significant issue. With proper treatment, you can live a long and active life.