Leg Length Discrepancy

Quite often patients can have difference in their leg lengths. This is not normal but extremely common. 

If you feel unbalanced or experience limb pain, you could have a leg length discrepancy.  Obtaining orthotics for leg length discrepancy such as a leg length discrepancy shoe or leg length discrepancy lifts can help ease your pain and treat this condition.

Read more to learn about the different types of leg length discrepancy, its causes, symptoms, and how you can treat your condition without a surgical procedure.

Leg Length Discrepancy (LLD), deforomity tibia and femur bone

What Is a Leg Length Discrepancy?

A leg length discrepancy (LLD), also called anisomelia, is a condition where the length of each of your legs is unequal to one another. There are two types of leg length discrepancies you can be diagnosed with. The first is Functional LLD, which is the most common of the two. The second is Structural LLD. Both of these forms of LLD are treatable, but if left untreated, they can cause serious discomfort and difficulty walking.

What Causes Leg Length Discrepancies?

Leg length discrepancies can be caused by multiple factors, but the ultimate cause is different depending on whether you have Functional LLD or Structural LLD

Functional LLD typically occurs due to health conditions like poor foot and body mechanics, weak hips and core muscles, or a scoliosis curvature in the spine. Athletic activities, work related activities and/or every day postural habits may create this issue. Each of these factors can have an impact and cause a functional change in the height of one leg to the other.

In contrast, Structural LLD occurs from a true difference in the lengths of the lower leg bones (tibia and femur). Individuals with structural LLD may have been born with uneven legs, they might have acquired this condition as a result of a leg fracture which caused shortening, or it could be a result of a joint replacement surgery that changed the lengths of the legs.

Common Symptoms of Leg Length Discrepancies

Due to the difference in height of the two legs, the symptoms can be many:

  • Trouble bending over or standing for extended periods of timeIf you begin to experience pain or discomfort in your lower limbs after you stand, reach, or squat for long periods of time, this could be a sign of a leg length discrepancy. 
  • Lower back pain and injury. Frequent lower back pain or back injury could be a sign of leg length discrepancies because your hips and lower spine experience pressure as a result.
  • Pain in your feet, knees, or hips. There can be many causes for foot, knee, and hip pain; however, this can also be a tell-tale sign that one of your legs has a length discrepancy. Just like pain in your lower back, this is because your discrepancy causes more tension and strain on those areas.
  • Limb injuries. Strain and pressure resulting from a leg length discrepancy cause injuries such as runner's knee, IT band syndrome, and plantar fasciitis. If you have one or more of these conditions, this could be because you also have a form of leg length discrepancy.
  • Feelings of imbalance while walking or standing upright. An obvious sign of a leg length disparity is when you feel off-balance as you walk or stand. You might even notice you have a slight limp in your step.
  • Fatigue after walking or physical activity. It is natural to feel tired after a workout, walk, or physical activity, but if you find yourself feeling extensively tired after one of these activities, this could be a sign of LLD. This is because you have to work harder to maintain your balance with a discrepancy.

If you have experienced one or more of these symptoms, be sure to consult a podiatrist for further diagnosis.

Treating Leg Length Discrepancies

There are several methods to treat leg length discrepancies that do not involve surgical procedures. 

These include chiropractic care, improving foot mechanics, diligent strength and flexibility work, and even massage. In addition to these treatment methods.

Shoe Lifts and Orthotics for Leg Length Discrepancy

Purchasing orthotic shoe products can not only improve your comfort levels and your walking abilities, but it can also play an imperative role in reducing any further damage to your joints in the lower extremities or your spine. Here are two options to increase equal leg length:

  • Shoe lifts: Shoe lifts are a great option for individuals with a leg length discrepancy of around two centimeters. By getting an X-ray done of the bones in your lower legs, a professional can accurately measure the length of your leg bones. This will help them determine what type of shoe lift you need. Shoe lifts can be easily attached to the bottom of your shoe.
  • Custom-made insoles: Custom-made insoles provide a discreet option for LLD-diagnosed individuals. These insoles come in different shapes and sizes so you can insert them into athletic shoes or dress shoes with ease. Your podiatrist can help you get custom insoles by conducting an exam and creating a plaster impression of your feet.

Other Ways to Minimize Discomfort or Injury

In addition to treatment options, you can also maintain a comfortable lifestyle with your condition by taking proactive measures in your daily life:

  • Minimize strenuous activity when experiencing pain. If you begin experiencing back or limb pain as you walk, exercise, or complete household chores, you should stop as soon as you can. By ignoring the pain, you are creating a foundation for worse pain or injury in the future.
  • Consider weight loss. If you are currently overweight, this could put additional strain on your limbs. Consider trying a weight loss plan to minimize the stress on your legs, feet, knees, hips, and lower back.
  • Refrain from heavy lifting. Heavy lifting requires muscles in the lower back and your legs, which are the areas that are most likely to contribute to discomfort, so by minimizing lifting activities, you can prevent pain and injury.
  • Get rid of old, unsupportive footwear. Old shoes with worn-down insoles could contribute to your limb pain, as well as shoes with little support. Get rid of these shoes from your wardrobe to make way for physician-designed footwear.

Although many other practitioners and physicians feel that functional leg length differences are insignificant, it has proven time and time again at our office, that treating the short leg with a appropriate lift, creates (sometimes instantaneous) relief at the affected area sometimes before the patient exits the office. 

You would not drive your car on a road trip with tires that were all different sizes and with some deflated. Nor would you buy a house with a falling down, broken, uneven foundation. This is what happens when the legs are functioning at different heights, it creates havoc somewhere along the chain!

With the right knowledge and treatment options, you can embrace your leg length discrepancy while also improving your health.

Schedule an appointment today with the Gurnee Podiatrist and Sports Medicine Association to get expert guidance about your condition.

We look forward to being of service to you!