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Is One Of Your Legs Longer Than The Other?

A leg length discrepancy (LLD) is a difference in the length between the right and left legs and is a common occurrence in a large percentage of the population. The difference between both legs can vary anywhere between 1mm to 60mm (or even more) and can lead to varying compensations in a person’s gait and posture.

The LLD can originate from an actual discrepancy in one of the bones in the leg, either femur or tibia. This is referred to as a “structural” LLD and commonly occurs due to:

  • An injury to the growth plates during childhood or adolescence
  • An acquired or congenital condition that affects bone growth
  • Hip or knee replacements

The other type of LLD is a “functional” type and refers to an apparent discrepancy. It is commonly caused by:

  • Scoliosis in the spine
  • Pelvic tilt
  • Muscular weaknesses at the pelvis, knee, foot and ankle
  • Activities that lead to overuse or repetitive actions on one side of the body more than the other side e.g. certain sports, carrying a child on one side, etc.

Some common signs or symptoms that may occur due to a LLD include limping, toe­walking, asymmetries in foot, ankle and/or knee positions, functional scoliosis, pain in neck/jaw, back, hips, knees, ankles or feet.

Everyone presents slightly different and to varying severities. LLDs less than 10mm are often assumed to be insignificant. However, this is not true in all cases. Occasionally we see patients that have significant symptoms (gait disturbances and pain) when their LLD is quite minimal.

 

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Measurement:                                                                                                                                                 The simplest way to measure for LLD is through observation and palpation. Some LLDs may be more obvious than others while others need more careful measurement. A tape measure can be used to measure the distance between specific bony landmarks on both legs. For more accurate measurements, an X­ray or CT scan can be obtained and this can pinpoint where the LLD is coming from.

Treatment:                                                                                                                                                       Management of LLDs depend on a variety of factors. The main factor depends on whether or not the LLD is causing any pain or other symptoms. If the body is compensating without causing significant biomechanical stresses in the body, then correcting the LLD may actually be counterintuitive, and actually lead to injury instead.

Another factor that contributes to the management of LLDs is whether the patient is classified as having a structural or functional LLD. This is why it is important to be assessed properly before sticking a heel/foot lift in your shoe. Foot/heel lifts are most suited for the management of structural LLDs. Functional LLDs benefit more from the use of stabilising functional orthotics in combination with a muscle strengthening/stretching program.

Management requires a full body assessment and should be performed in a holistic manner.

 

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Maha

Maha

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Shop 2/17-19 East Parade
Sutherland, NSW 2232

Tel: 02 9542 3491
Email: info@sutherlandpodiatry.com.au