Many individuals develop imbalance and pain as a result of a leg-length inequality (LLI). If one leg is longer, it is similar to driving around with one car tire bigger than the others. The centre of gravity changes as weight is transferred to one side of the body. Your shoes will wear unevenly. One foot, ankle, knee and hip will be under more stress, and there will eventually be compensatory changes above the pelvis as the balance of the spine is altered. Scoliosis develops with eventual premature joint degeneration on one side of the spine. Whatever you call it--short leg syndrome, leg length difference, leg length inequality, or LLI-- it is quite common and can have surprisingly profound effects on your well being.
LLI can be categorised as structural or functional.
1. Structural Short Leg- this indicates that there is a true difference in the length of the legs. This may be due to unequal growth rates, fractures, deformities or altered joint structure.
2. Functional Short Leg- results from excessive foot pronation (flat feet), muscle imbalances and/or distortions in the pelvis. With this type, there is usually a rotation or displacement of the pelvis on one or both sides which causes abnormal stress on all muscles, nerves and joints that are involved. The longer a person has this type of LLI the greater the chance is for secondary compensatory problems somewhere else in the body. Commonly problems will appear in the upper back, shoulders or neck.
- Low back pain- is the most common pain pattern seen due to the tilting of the pelvis to the short leg side.
- Scoliosis- develops as the body is trying to keep the head and shoulders balanced over the feet.
- Muscle spasms and trigger points- distortions in the musculature occur throughout the body attributed to the spinal curvature. The most visible changes are the spinal related muscles which appear asymmetric hypertrophy (shrinkage) of the neck musculature occurs.
- Neck and shoulder pain and headaches- The constant balancing of the neck and shoulders to maintain eye level and the head erect , requires constant compensation of the neck muscles. This constant strain perpetuates trigger points in the neck and shoulder muscles causing tension headaches and neurovascular compression of spinal nerves and blood vessels. the results can be numbness, tingling, pain and weakness of the shoulders, arms and hands. With the tension in these spinal muscles attached to the vertebrae, spinal misalignments or subluxations can occur. This causes additional stress on spinal joints and the existing nerves with interruption or blocking of the nerve flow to the associated body parts.
- Loss of energy- The body's efforts to maintain balance in the presence of a short leg can cause a loss of energy. It has been documented that more oxygen is used by individuals with LLI. Could this contribute to you being overly tired?
- Stress fractures- Compensatory mechanisms disrupts the gait cycle of the foot, and due to a change in the timing sequence certain muscles will be overworked which makes you prone to injury.
- Knee pain and knee injuries are also very common in people with LLI. This is mainly due to excessive pronation or flattening of the arch of the foot, accompanied by excessive outward rotation of the foot, ankle, knee and hip.
- Muscle tears- the uneven length in leg muscles due to LLI often causes hamstring tears on one side and groin tears on the opposite leg. If you have suffered repeated muscle tears in the legs you should consider the possibility that you may have an LLI.
If there is a muscle pain syndrome and it is treated without correcting the causes of physical stress, the patient is doomed to endless cycles of treatment and relapse. On the other hand, eliminating the causes of the stress can result in complete relief of the pain. So, LLI can have surprisingly wide ranging effects. You better get checked out!
A thorough biomechanical examination of your foot,leg, pelvis and spine checking for assymetry is performed. If a LLI is suspected you will be sent for x-rays and/or CT scan to determine the exact difference in leg length. based on our findings, corrective therapy and a treatment schedule will be determined to best help you.
Similar to correcting the alignment of the front wheels of a car to prevent the tires from wearing out too fast, correcting differences in leg length is important to prevent wear and tear on the feet, knees, hips, pelvis and spine. pain in the leg or back or muscle fatigue and soreness are signs that an examination by your chiropractor is needed. Keep in mind, some people, may have spinal and leg length problems that do not immediately cause pain or stiffness, so regular chiropractic checkups are essential.
With time, periodic check-ups and adjustments muscular balance will be restored. The stressful compensation and adaptation process is relieved. With less stress on the body better health and function is restored through Chiropractic "naturally".
B.Sc. M. Chiropractic MNZCA
For more information on how chiropractic treatment can help, contact us on 09 378 0069
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