Tim* (48), had pain radiating down his right arm, pain radiating down the back of both legs and pain in his shoulder blade. It started gradually and proceeded to get worse.
For 30 years, Leon*(63) had occasional back pain that would go away when he rested for a few days. However, after two weeks of debilitating pain he knew he had to try something different. Sara*(68) was prescribed a walking boot after foot surgery. Although her foot healed, her back and neck conditions got much worse.
What do these three patients have in common? A SHORT LEG and the FRUSTRATION of looking for answers to their ever-increasing pain and discomfort. With a short leg, simply put, each leg is different in length from the hip to the ground. Over time, as the body struggles to cope with this imbalance, symptoms develop. While at first these symptoms may come on slowly and occur occasionally, over time they can increase in intensity and duration.
For some, a short leg can develop in youth – with the legs not growing exactly even. For others, it can develop after a fracture of a lower limb. It can be also be a temporary condition while wearing a walking boot after foot surgery or an injury.
The imbalance caused by a short leg can affect the feet, ankles, knees, hips or any part of the body that is “stacked” on top of the hips, the biomechanical foundation of the spine. Gait can be affected, as can posture. Hip and knee joints can wear out. Symptoms can develop anywhere in the musculoskeletal system and move about! As we age, the body loses the battle to cope with this imbalance.
While some patients suspect this condition because their tailor has had to adjust their pant length or they see uneven hips when looking in the mirror, diagnosis of this condition is not a “feeling” of one leg being shorter than the other. It must be measured. But the commonest methods (and less accurate) are either from outside the body with a tape measure or through an X-ray of the lower limbs while laying down. The easiest and most accurate way is through one single X-ray view – the standing (upright) pelvis X-ray. With the floor and X-ray perfectly level, this one view can verify if you have a short leg (or if children are growing with a short leg predisposing them to scoliosis).
Unless a short leg is identified, the patient can go from doctor to doctor, from procedure to procedure, without finding an answer.
Some authorities say the maximum difference in length with which the body can cop is 10mm (0.4inches). However, each of us is different and may be more or less sensitive. One correction for short leg, a lift placed on the outside of the shoe, may be necessary. The determining factor is the way the body has adapted, particularly the curves of the lumbar spine, an adaptation that can be improved with chiropractic care.
To know whether you have a short leg, and the treatment that is best for you including a shoe lift, find a chiropractor who can take and analyze the standing pelvis X-ray.
Dr. Brad Miller has been practicing chiropractic in Arcadia since 1984. He can be contacted at email@example.com.
*Not real names