Anatomical leg length discrepancy is the difference between the length of legs. Some children are born with legs of different lengths. In other cases, illness or injury causes a discrepancy in length to develop over time.

Studies showed that as little as 5mm (3/16”) difference is considered significant, and are one of the most common causative factors for chronic low back pain. It is also possible to create pain in the hip, knee or leg on the side of the longer leg. This is because the longer leg carries more weight, and is subject to more abuse in activities such as walking or running.

The treatment of chronic low back pain complicated by leg length discrepancy will consist of a two-part process:

  • Spinal and tissue manipulation to reduce misalignment and muscular tightness in the low back and pelvis, which are normal occurrences with leg length discrepancy
  • Utilisation of a heel lift under the short leg side to stabilise and level the pelvis, thereby giving the spine a more level foundation, in order to reduce wedging of the intervertebral discs, sheer stress and rotational distortions on the spinal vertebrae.

Heel lifts used to compensate for chronic leg length discrepancy should be introduced gradually, by adding merely 2-3mm each week, as the body will have to accommodate the new changes, and any sudden change in that balance can cause a secondary problem.

Even though it is an important factor, leg length discrepancy is commonly overlooked in the evaluation of low back, hip, and leg pain problems. Anyone who suffered from aforementioned pain should request a thorough examination to determine if leg length discrepancy is a factor in his or her condition.

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