Health Topic Archives

Is it possible I have a "short leg" and could this be causing my back pain?

Strange as it sounds, this is a really common problem we see. 

Short legs, or leg length discrepancies as they are known, can be the result of two causes.  The first is that we are born with it.  In reality, most people are not completely symmetrical between both sides of their body, and leg lengths fit this pattern.

The second cause is acquired.  This may be the result of an injury or surgery involving a leg. 

What about "leg lengthening?"  Within this second cause, we will see the opposite of a leg shortening, and that is a leg lengthening.  This is a typical presentation in people who have had knee or hip joint replacement surgery.  Over the years, extreme arthritis in the knee or hip resulted in narrowing the joint space.  This would shorten the leg.  Since this happens slowly overtime, the body has time to "adapt."  After the joint is replaced, there are stresses placed on the back from this lengthening.

So, why could this cause back pain?  The reason is fairly basic.  It is the result of the mechanical stresses placed on the back.  A great way to think about it is the song, "The hip bone is connected to the knee bone..."  In anatomical terms, this is called a kinematic chain.  The leg length discrepancy alters this chain.

Treatment has three aspects.  First, in our office, as the presenting problem is acute back pain, we can use a short course of adjusting to reduce the mechanical pain. 

Second, we need to introduce a home flexibility routine.  This allows you to reduce the stresses on the spine.  These exercises are not complicated.

Finally, in some of the more challenging cases, we may have you try a shoe lift you can buy in a store.  We may also ask you to see your podiatrist for a prescription shoe insert.

Good news.  Yes, this is a controllable problem.

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