Although it’s estimated that up to 90% of people have a leg length discrepancy, it’s still a condition that many aren’t aware of—or know how to alleviate aches and pains it can cause.
We’ve put together a list of the common questions we receive about leg length discrepancy and our popular
Q: What is a leg length discrepancy?
A: Also called a leg length deficiency, it is when one leg is shorter than the other. The difference in length can be so slight it’s not noticeable and causes no issues, but those with a greater discrepancy between the two lengths can experience a range of aches and pains.
Q: What causes a difference in leg lengths?
A: There are two types of leg length discrepancies: structural and functional. A structural discrepancy occurs when either the femur or tibia bone grows to a shorter length in one leg. A functional leg length discrepancy can happen as a result of a fracture or other trauma to one side of the body. An imbalance in the tendons, ligaments, and muscles of the legs, glutes, and hips can also result in a functional shortening of the leg.
Q: How is a leg length discrepancy diagnosed?
A: A diagnosis typically involves an exam with a healthcare provider, which will include going over a complete medical history to review any fractures, accidents or events that may have impacted one side of the body. The patient will also be observed walking, sitting, standing, and moving. If needed, X-rays, computed tomography (CT) scans or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may be required.
Q: How can I tell if I have one leg shorter than the other?
A: Side effects of living with a leg length discrepancy will vary widely based on how pronounced the difference is, as well as activity level and other factors. Pain in the lower back, sacroiliac (SI) joints, hips and glutes is the most common issue. The knee, ankle, foot and/or sciatica on the side of the short leg may also become painful. And because the pelvis is affected with a discrepancy in leg lengths, pain can also radiate up through the spine and into the neck, shoulder, and upper back.
Q: How can you fix a difference in leg lengths?
A: For small differences that produce no side effects, your healthcare provider may determine no treatment is needed. For differences that are 1/8-inch or greater, he or she may suggest using a heel lift. For a difference greater than one inch, your healthcare provider may suggest a medical or surgical procedure.
Q: How do I use a heel lift for leg length discrepancy?
A: The Adjust-A-Lift® Heel Lift is ideal for a leg length discrepancy due to its adjustability. The three layers of 1/8-inch thick extra firm, open cell foam rubber are designed to simply peel away so you can create the desired height you need, up to approximately 1/2-inch. Simply insert the lift into the shoe of your shorter leg.For warm weather sandals, or for times when you need the lift but are not wearing shoes—yoga, Pilates, or around the house—the Adjustable Heel Lift Ankle Sock allows you to tuck the lift securely into an inside pocket.
A leg length discrepancy diagnosis can sound frightening, but the good news is that a proper heel lift designed for a leg length difference can be a quick and easy adjustment. It can also be a relief to understand the reason for your aches and pains and to learn it’s not an uncommon condition.