Q: I have been told i have a short leg and that it is the cause of my back pain. is this possible and if so, can it be helped?
A: Ask people if the right and left sides of their bodies are equal in length and the answer would probably be in the affirmative. Most of us believe that the human body is completely symmetrical, with one side mirroring the other. Yet the majority of people are functionally asymmetrical. In such cases both legs have equal length, but one functions shorter than the other. To the lay person, this imbalance will seem insignificant; however, it is exactly those small imbalances that will lead to the vast majority of painful symptoms that bring people into my office.
First, I must make known there are two kinds of short leg… anatomical and functional. A TRUE short leg is anatomically short. That means that when measured through the use of special radiological imaging, we can measure the difference from one side to another. Because millimeters count, if it is more than a couple mm off – it is considered a significant length discrepancy. This can be corrected using a heal lift prescribed by someone who knows what they are doing. In this case, chiropractic therapy is needed to allow balance to return with less pain while your body adapts to the correction.
The other kind of short leg is a functional short leg, the legs are really the same length, but they function as if one is shorter. A heal lift in this case is NOT appropriate unless therapy is unsuccessful at correction. The difference in functional length can be due to a variety of reasons. One cause, for example, is that individuals who have a problem knee put more stress on one side of the body than the other and stretch the muscles on one leg and contract them on the other. Muscles become overactive or hypertonic, resulting in increased tissue tightness and reductions in range of motion. This effect will then follow the biomechanical chain from the leg muscles, to the hip muscles, into the low back muscles and so on.
These differences in length can be so minimal that they are not seen when looking in a mirror. This does not mean, however, that they have a minimal effect. Even a few millimeters of difference can cause low back or hip problems. Your doctor of chiropractic can accurately measure the length of your legs and determine whether you have a functional difference between legs that is affecting your postural stability. Expert, hands-on treatment will restore the symmetry and help to prevent or eliminate pain.
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