Discrepancies in leg length are extremely common in the United States. As many as 43.5 percent of people have an inequality of five millimeters of more between their two legs and as many as 75.4 percent of people with chronic low back pain had similar leg-length inequalities according to a study published by Spine in 1983. This is why chiropractors at The Joint work hand in hand with patients to help decrease leg-length discrepancies.
Leg-length discrepancies are extremely hard on the body. They affect most weight-bearing joints and cause low-back pain, lumbar spine pain, hip joint pain and even knee pain. When one leg is longer than the other, the longer leg ends up carrying more weight than the other, adding stress to the entire side of the body and effecting balance. Some common signs of leg-length discrepancy include tightness in the hips, uneven stride, and muscle spasms.
Leg-length discrepancies are either functional or anatomical. Functional discrepancies are caused by many things including hip capsule tightness on one side of the body, misalignment, spinal curvatures and unbalanced strides. For example, if one of your feet is pronated and the other is supinated, the result may be a leg-length discrepancy. Fortunately, chiropractors can work one on one with patients to relieve leg-length discrepancies that are caused by functional problems, which I will explain in more detail below.
Anatomical discrepancies may be caused by uneven bone length, polio, surgeries, or bone fractures and bone breaks, to name a few. Unfortunately, chiropractors cannot make a femur longer, but they can help patients cope with the misalignment and chronic pain that results from leg-length discrepancy.
To help low-back, hip or knee pain that is the result of leg-length discrepancy, chiropractors must first assess the exact inequality between the two legs, muscular tightness and any spinal and structural misalignments resulting from leg-length inequality. After this is completed, the chiropractor would provide an individualized treatment plan for the patient. For example, if the patient’s leg-length discrepancy is due primarily to tightness in one hip, the chiropractor would focus on increasing range of motion and flexibility in said hip. Some techniques chiropractors commonly employ are massage, adjustments, stretching, and strengthening exercises.
Depending on the severity or the leg-length discrepancy, a chiropractor may decide that a heel lift is important for stabilization. A heel lift, which is inserted in the patient’s shoe, is meant to add height where the patient lacks it in an attempt to provide the spine with a more level foundation.
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