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One Leg Is Shorter Than the
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--Top 7 Health Problems
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June 20, 2017

By Ariadne Weinberg, Featured Columnist
[Health and fitness articles are reviewed by our panel of Registered
Nurses, Certified fitness trainers and other members of our Editorial
Board]




People argue about beauty. They say beauty is subjective.
While beauty is in the eye of the beholder, there is one
principle that is pretty universal to our perception of what is
aesthetically pleasing: Symmetry. They also say that beauty
is pain. If you think about this in terms of leg length
inequality, however, the statement isn’t accurate.

Your lack of symmetry can cause quite real pain. Leg length
inequality throws your whole body out of whack, not just
the leg itself. Positioning your body to the side can cause a
lot of pain at least and a whole new disease in the worst
case scenario.

It’s not always easy to pinpoint a completely direct cause
and effect between leg length inequality and disorders or
diseases. There is controversy within the community of
doctors and patients just how linked some of them are. We
can always talk about correlations and statistics. In the case
of Trochanteric Pain Syndrome, many do associate the
disease with leg length inequality. However, a 2008 study by
Neil Segal at The University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics,
showed that to possibly be false. A total of 1,482 subjects
were tested, and under certain parameters there was no
association with leg length inequality. In another, there was
a slight association for female subjects tested.

There are a few reasons why your legs might be uneven:
One is structural discrepancy, which occurs when either the
thigh (femur) or shin (tibia) bone in one leg is physically
shorter than the same bone in the other leg. The is
functional discrepancy, which happens when the bone
lengths are equal, but symmetry between the legs is thrown
off by a problem in the foot, ankle, knee, hip or pelvis.

In any case, a discrepancy in leg length will tilt your body in
a different position, sometimes causing spinal problems, such
as scoliosis, or foot problems, such as tibial tendon
dysfunction. Your body will respond differently depending
on how different in length your legs are, as well. A slight
different may cause few to no problems.

Read on to find some other possible health problems caused
by leg length inequality.

      


























1.
Osteoarthritis and Conservative Surgery

Leg length inequality has been associated with prevalent,
incident, and progressive knee osteoarthritis, according to
population samples from Birmingham, Alabama and Iowa
City, Iowa. WF Harvey's Boston University School of
Medicine 2016 study confirmed the unfortunate link to the
disease by studying 3026 participants, ages 50-79, with or
at high risk for knee osteoarthritis.

If you have osteoarthritis due to your condition, there are
many ways to manage and treat the disease. F. Negrin
Vargas from the Centro de Salud Dr. Gigou Tenerife in Spain
recommends several in his 2014 report: Physical activity and
therapeutic exercise is key. Weight control is necessary for
overweight and obese patients.

Physical therapies, technical aids like walking sticks, simple
analgesics, opium alkaloids, and anti-inflammatory drugs are
also some of Vargas' top recommendations. If your case is
extreme, conservative surgery and joint replacement may be
needed. Ask your doctor which option is best in your case.

      
2.
Different Length Legs Can Cause Lower Back Pain  

As mentioned, most people have a small difference in their
leg lengths, which can sometimes cause problems, but
usually not. This is usually okay if the leg length is less than
5 millimeters (or ¼ inch) difference.

However, if the difference in your legs is more than ¼ inch,
quite often you will experience
lower back pain.

If your legs differ by more than 9 millimeters in length, you
are 6 times more likely to have an episode of lower back
pain, according to experts at the Virginia Spine Institute.

A good practical first step is to put a heel lift in the shorter
leg's shoe. You may also want to pursue physical therapy
and/or surgery, depending on the severity of your case.


      
3.
Different Length Legs Can Cause Functional Scoliosis

Scoliosis occurs when the spine curves instead of making a
straight line. I have slight scoliosis, and it’s not abnormal to
have a bit. However, when leg length equality comes into
play, having that particular curve can be pretty detrimental.

In a 2010 report, J.W. Raczkowski from the Medical
University of Lodz in Poland reported on a study conducted
between 1998 and 2006. A total of 369 kids aged 5-7 (209
girls, 160 boys), with leg length discrepancy functional
scoliosis were given an external or internal shoe lift.

Within two weeks, the adjustment of the spine was noted
and corrected in 83.7% of them. 14.7% of the kids
experienced the realignment after 2 weeks with slight low
back pain. The time needed for real equalization was
between 3 and 24 months, depending on the person. If you
have a type of functional scoliosis, ask your doctor if
equalization may be an option for you.



4.
Different Leg Lengths Can Cause Lumbar Disc Hernia

A lumbar disc hernia can sometimes be related to scoliosis,
or at least, low back pain, in the cases of leg length
discrepancy.

Dr. M.S. Balik and researchers from the Recep Tayyip
Erdogan University in Rize, Turkey, discovered that having
different leg lengths might lead to degeneration in the
lumbar spine and disc space.

In 2016, Balik and colleagues conducted an experiment with
39 patients with both leg length discrepancy and lower back
pain and 43 patients with only low back pain as a control
group. There was a statistically significant association
between leg length discrepancy and occurrence of lumbar
disc hernia.

According to Dr. Peter F. Fullrich, orthopedic surgeon from
the University of Wisconsin Medical School, chiropractic and
osteopathic manipulation may be a good option for a lumbar
disc hernia. He also recommends you tailor the treatment
with non-steroid anti-inflammatory medications or, if the
pain is intense, strong epidural steroid injections.

Physical therapy is also a good option to combine with
chiropractic or osteopathic work. Research and ask your
physician what your best options are in your particular case.

5.
Pelvic Obliquity Is Caused By Different Leg Lengths

“Obliquity” almost sounds elegant, when you don’t know
what the word means. However, pelvic obliquity, a pelvis
that slants the wrong way, can cause all kinds of secondary
conditions that you don’t want, including bad joints and pain
in the knees, feet, and discs.

In 2012, M. Betsch and researchers from the Heinrich Heine
University in Düsseldorf, Germany, tested leg length
inequality effects with a rasterstereography device.

In this study, 115 people were examined with that method,
with artificially created leg length inequalities between 5 and
15 millimeters. They found that a change in platform led to a
significant increase in pelvic tilt. In extreme cases, an internal
correction and fixation device can be placed inside the pelvis.
If the obliquity is slight, other methods might be more
feasible, such as scoliosis correction (if the slant is connected
to scoliosis), release of hip contractures, and leg length
balancing.    

6.
Watch Out for Sciatica Nerve Pain If One Leg Is Shorter
Than the Other

Unfortunately, sometimes having one leg that is shorter than
the other can lead to pinching and pain in the nerves.

The correlation between leg length inequality and sciatica is
due to the mechanism of asymmetrical pronation patterns,
which make a forward downward rotation in the sacroiliac
joint.

The sciatic nerve gets trapped between the piriformis muscle
and the sacrospinous ligament. This can also cause weakness
and numbness, according to a 1988 report from R.A.
Rothbart at Biomechanics Florida. Heat and ice is
recommended for simply treating the pain itself. You can put
a heat or ice pack on the affected area every two hours for
about 20 minutes. See which one better serves you, if you
are suffering from this condition. Mild analgesics, are, of
course, also okay to supplement pain diminishment.

7.
Tibial Tendon Dysfunction? - Use Braces or Orthotics

The tibial tendon is located in the back of the foot.
Sometimes when one food is not parallel with the other, it
can cease to function so well. A 2014 study by J.A. Sanhudo
from the Universidade Federal do Rio Grande in Porto Alegre
confirmed this.

They tested 118 patients with a diagnosis of both tibial
tendon dysfunction and leg length inequality, and a control
group of 118 gender-matched and race-matched volunteers.
The prevalence in the case group was much greater than the
control group.

If you are experiencing tibial tendon dysfunction, you have
many options. Braces and orthotics (such as a platform to
adjust the position of your feet) may be a good option.

Ask your doctor which techniques you can use. You may
want to combine external helping devices with physical
therapy and rest, as well.















































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