Have you ever noticed or been told that one of your legs is longer than your other leg? Have you experienced back pain and other spine health issues? According to research studies, leg length discrepancy can be associated with low back pain and sciatica. Most people have a minimal difference in their leg spans. Because the discrepancy is small, it’s generally not a contributor for back pain. However, if the difference in their leg spans is more than 5 millimeters or 1/4 inch, it can contribute to low back pain and sciatica. The purpose of this article is to discuss how leg length discrepancy is associated with sciatica symptoms.
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Leg Length Discrepancy Causes
Leg length discrepancies can occur due to the poor alignment of the pelvis or when one leg is structurally longer than the other. Regardless of the cause, in order to remain symmetrical, the human body will do its best to compensate for the leg length discrepancy. The bigger the leg length difference, the sooner the symptoms will present themselves to the patient. Specific diagnoses that match with leg length discrepancy include scoliosis, lumbar herniated discs, sciatica, sacroiliitis, pelvic obliquity, greater trochanteric bursitis, hip arthritis, piriformis syndrome, patellofemoral syndrome and foot pronation. Other possible causes could be due to an injury, bone disorder, bone tumors, congenital problems, or due to a neuromuscular health issue.
Leg Length Discrepancy Symptoms
- Observance of one leg being longer than the other
- Altered posture
- Gait (manner of walking) problems
- Low back, hip, knee, ankle, or foot pain
Leg Length Discrepancy Classifications
Leg length discrepancies can be categorized as a structural leg length discrepancy or a functional leg length discrepancy. A structural leg length discrepancy is a hereditary circumstance where a leg is simply longer than the other leg. This is determined in the event the patient’s pelvis and sacroiliac joints are symmetrical and the leg length discrepancy is due to a single leg truly being longer than the other. The best method to learn whether a structural leg length discrepancy exists is with an anterior-posterior x-ray of the pelvis. A diagnosis alternative is having a tape measure to measure the length of the leg from the hip to the ankle.
Functional leg length discrepancy is diagnosed when there is a torsion or pelvic rotation/obliquity, commonly a sacroiliac joint dysfunction, which induces one leg to be longer or shorter than the other. To determine if a true structural leg length discrepancy exists, the doctor must care for the pelvis and return it to a neutral place before quantifying the leg length discrepancy. When the pelvis is symmetrical it’s can be determined if the leg length discrepancy is present or not. If it goes away, it’s classified as functional leg length discrepancy. If it stays and contains a measurable difference, it is a structural leg length discrepancy.
Leg Length Discrepancy and Sciatica Treatment
Structural leg length discrepancy may be treated by utilizing a heel lift in the shorter leg’s shoe if the leg length is larger than 5 millimeters. The size and use of the heel lift are dependent on a doctor based on how much lift is necessary to restore appropriate lumbopelvic biomechanics. In several instances, surgical intervention may be required to either shorten or lengthen the limb. An important element to any surgical procedure to correct leg length discrepancies is rehabilitation. Rehabilitation can ultimately help to stretch muscles and maintain joint flexibility, which is fundamental towards the healing process after surgery.
To treat a functional leg length discrepancy, no heel lift is needed, however, appropriate manual treatment methods and specific therapeutic exercises are required to treat and normalize pelvic and lower extremity compensations. The number of treatments needed to support the pelvis in a symmetrical position is different for each patient based on their demonstration and biomechanical dysfunctions in the low back, pelvis, hip, knee, ankle, and foot. When you suffer from low back pain, sciatica, and leg length discrepancy, the signs and symptoms may ultimately be associated with each other. A diagnosis to ascertain whether you have a leg length discrepancy is essential when it might be contributing to low back pain, hip pain, knee pain, or leg pain.
According to healthcare professionals, leg length discrepancy may affect between 60 to 90 percent of the population. Categorized as either functional or structural, leg length discrepancy can affect the human body’s biomechanics and it may result in low back pain and sciatica. Most people have a smal leg length discrepancy, however, it’s generally not a contributor for back pain. If the leg length discrepancy is greater, however, it can contribute to low back pain and sciatica. – Dr. Alex Jimenez D.C., C.C.S.T. Insight
Low Back Pain
The purpose of the article is to describe how leg length discrepancy can be associated with sciatica and other health issues. Sciatica is a collection of symptoms characterized by pain, tingling sensation, and numbness. The scope of our information is limited to chiropractic, musculoskeletal and nervous health issues as well as functional medicine articles, topics, and discussions. To further discuss the subject matter above, please feel free to ask Dr. Alex Jimenez or contact us at 915-850-0900 .
Curated by Dr. Alex Jimenez
Additional Topic Discussion: Foot Orthotics
Low back pain and sciatica are common health issues which affect many individuals worldwide. However, did you know that chronic pain may be due to foot problems? Health issues originating in the foot may ultimately cause imbalances in the spine, such as poor posture, which can cause the well-known symptoms of low back pain and sciatica. Custom foot orthotics, individually designed with 3-arch support can help promote overall health and wellness by supporting and promoting good posture and correcting foot problems. Custom foot orthotics can ultimately help improve low back pain and sciatica.
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