For efficient movement of the human body there must be a well-aligned musculoskeletal system. Most of us have fairly similar leg lengths – however, many do not, and their legs are noticeably uneven. Many of the symptoms of leg length discrepancy (LLD) are treatable if the cause and type of LLD is identified early on.
Leg length discrepancy is a common among both children and adults, with statistics showing that between 90-95.5% of the population is affected. A survey conducted at the Children’s Hospital in Boston showed that 93% had a leg length discrepancy. Leg length discrepancy can have a great effect on the spine and hips, as well as the foot. A difference of more than 1cm is where the discrepancy starts to affect normal body alignment, but in a person with a largely sedentary lifestyle, this will usually have little to no effect on them. The effects may start to show when the person increases their level of activity.
Symptoms of leg length discrepancy include:
There are 2 types of leg length discrepancy: Structural and Functional, which are caused by different factors.
Sometimes it is difficult to differentiate which type of leg length discrepancy a patient is suffering from as it is not unusual to have both arise together. Symptoms are also usually worse on the longer side, due to increased stance time and over-pronation on the limb. The human body will also try to compensate for the disparity, which can take a few forms:
To check for leg length discrepancy, podiatrists will conduct a thorough physical examination and use specific tests to confirm or diagnose a discrepancy in length.
This involves taking tape measurements from the anterior superior iliac spine (the front of the hip) to the medial malleolus (inner ankle) several times, then taking an average length. The presence of a leg length discrepancy can be observed during a podiatrist’s gait analysis in-clinic as well, and these can include signs of shoulder tilt, unequal arm swing, pelvic tilt, excessive knee flexion or excessive high/low arch of the foot on one side. X-rays are also useful in determining leg length structurally, information on the bone quality of the limbs and any anatomical anomalies.
Leg length discrepancy can be treated both surgically and non-surgically.
Surgical procedures can also be done to correct leg length discrepancy permanently.
Everyone’s case of leg length discrepancy is different. If yours is giving you problems, do not hesitate to book a consultation with a podiatrist to find out more about your leg length discrepancy.