Most people know that it can be normal for one of our legs to be shorter or longer than the other. But how much is too much? A significant or severe leg length discrepancy can cause serious lower back pain, and chronic lower back pain can affect your daily life, your movements, and more. How can pain related to uneven legs be treated?
It is important to know that different types of leg length discrepancies exist. In some cases, it’s as simple as one bone being longer or shorter than the other, which is known as a structural discrepancy. A functional discrepancy involves something in the body occurring, such as a problem with soft tissues, joints, or muscles. If you’ve ever had a broken bone or some type of injury to the joints or tissues, it can cause uneven leg length later in life. Specific diseases may cause shortening of the muscles or tissues, resulting as well in length discrepancies. Either way, some of the most common uneven leg problems stem from problems in the feet.
When looking at feet, we notice that some feet have a noticeable arch, while others may have little to none. This can determine whether a longer leg or shorter leg is created. There is a normal level of length difference of course, but when the problem goes beyond that, it’s time to figure out why and seek treatment. The body, when faced with even a slightly shorter leg, will try to compensate for this difference. This results in unbalanced movement and causes long-term side effects not only in the form of back pain, but also hip and knee pain, uneven gait, and even various foot problems. Heel lifts, otherwise known as shoe lifts, are often recommended to treat these discrepancies.
Heel lifts are inserts made to be put into your shoes, and are firm and wedge-shaped. They work by attempting to balance your body’s movements by “lengthening” your shorter leg as your heel touches the ground. It is typically only required for the shorter of your two legs, and the selection of your heel lift will need to be made carefully, as uneven legs can be a permanent or long-term problem. A balanced level of long-term comfort and minimal stress to the feet needs to be achieved. Because you will need to add the same elevation difference to every pair of shoes you wear, including house shoes, you will probably need to find more than one type of heel lift depending on the foot wear. Heel lifts will succeed in improving spinal balance, gait, oxygen consumption, and even address problems with any scoliosis or pelvic issues resulting from the short leg. They will restore normalcy to your balance and function overall, and should take away any or all back pain associated with the problem.
Determining if you need heel lifts will need to be done by a doctor or specialist. They will examine you for uneven leg length, and x-rays or radiographs may also need to be done to determine the severity or any damage or asymmetry to your pelvis.