Do I have a short leg? Is it common to have one leg shorter than the other? Are the symptoms that I’ve experienced caused by a leg length discrepancy?
In this blog from Dr. Lee’s Health & Wellness Centre in Waterloo, we will try to clear up some of the confusion and misunderstanding around uneven leg length. It is quite normal for human bodies to be slightly asymmetrical—although this asymmetry may be the result of different factors, which should be treated differently.
Causes of Uneven Leg Length
People with uneven legs will typically fall into two main categories: people with structural abnormalities, and people with functional abnormalities. Understanding what category you fall into will help determine a future course of treatment for your condition!
A structural abnormality is part of the body’s natural asymmetry. People with a structural abnormality will have one leg that is permanently shorter than the other—it may take years to notice.
Structural abnormalities are typically the result of a person’s genetic code, but they can be caused by environmental factors during pregnancy or severe illnesses in a person’s life. For example, conditions such as polio, slipped capital epiphysis from a metabolic condition, or Legg-Calvé-Perthes disease can permanently affect the hip joint and lead to uneven leg lengths.
A functional abnormality is a condition that is acquired over time. It could be the result of poor habits when running or doing similar exercise. Just like structural abnormalities, it can take time to notice a functional abnormality—although they will be easier to treat once diagnosed.
Leg Length Discrepancy Treatment
It is important to understand the causes of uneven leg length before beginning treatment, as the cause will determine the course of treatment. Certain issues can be particularly tricky, as they can be the result of either a structural or functional abnormality.
For instance, flat feet are something that you can be born with or acquire over time. Fused vertebrae are similar condition, which can be either congenital (a genetic defect) or acquired due to injury.
Treatment for Structural Abnormalities
Short legs caused by a structural abnormality are impossible to fully ‘cure’, as they are a form of physical disability. However, it is possible to use various aids to help the situation. Tools like heel raise or heel lifts can be inserted in the base of a shoe to accommodate short legs.
Treatment for Functional Abnormalities
When caused by a functional abnormality, short legs can be easily corrected with exercise, stretching and massage therapy. If the problem is located in the joint, you may need chiropractic treatment to fix it as well. Short legs can create a telescoping effect from the leg muscles into the hip sockets and pelvis.
Runners or other high-impact athletes are common candidates for short legs, due to the constant strain on their bodies. Other inflammatory conditions like arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis (AS), or lupus can cause pelvic torsion. This will affect the legs as well. Pregnancy can also torque the same area after childbirth.
Noticed that you have a short leg? Contact Dr. Lee’s Health & Wellness Centre in Waterloo to get an assessment today.