How can you tell if your legs are different lengths? And why does it matter?
Although most of the population naturally have a difference in the length of their limbs (1), it is usually slight, and not likely to require any treatment. It is only if you notice symptoms such as a head tilt, shoulder dip, limping, or a variation in shoe sizes, these may be worth investigating with your local podiatrist.
But what most people don’t realise, is that injury and/or surgery can also cause limb length discrepancy.
Limb Length Discrepancy Symptoms
Should limb length discrepancy develop following these circumstances, it may result in pain in the:
- lower back;
- running down the back of the leg;
- in, or on the outside of the knee;
There may even be an increased risk of stress fractures (2).
These problems arise because the differing leg lengths increase pressure on the nerves in the lower back, which innervate the foot.
The Impact of Injury or Surgery
While surgical interventions such as hip or knee replacements, ligament or tendon repair, may fix one problem, these procedures – and aids such as crutches and moon boots – can affect the length of your limbs.
The simple ankle sprain is also a common culprit. We often see clients many months afterwards, reporting that although the sprained ankle is now healed, it still doesn’t feel quite right. The incredible forces placed on the site during the injury have caused joints to pop out of alignment. As a result the individual begins walking differently to compensate, without even realising it – upsetting the body’s natural balance.
It can take a full 6 to 12 months for the body to recover from surgery or injury. In the meantime however, our body has compensated and while we may have completed the rehabilitation process, all of a sudden something else is getting sore. The lower back, the ball of the foot, or the outside of the knee are suddenly causing pain! But why?!
All of these problems may affect your limb length, and ultimately, your body’s balance.
Treatment for Limb Length Discrepancy
Following injury or surgery, the connection between the foot and brain – and vice versa – can be lost.
In order to improve your body’s balance and reconnect that neurological pathway, at Trevor Lane Podiatry we may use treatments such as:
- Foot Mobilisation Therapy (the only local podiatrist qualified in this modality);
- special shoes or orthotics;
- kinetic tape.
However we can only assess what else was interrupted during that healing process, by physical examination, digital gait analysis or other diagnostic imaging, once you’ve recovered from the initial bruising, swelling, stitches, crutches, boots etc.
Sometimes there are other factors which may be at play, meaning that podiatry treatment may not be suitable. At these times your local podiatrist may refer you to another allied health care practitioner such as a chiropractor, osteopath, or physiotherapist. While your podiatrist plays a key role in a complex overall picture, the aim is to work in conjunction with other health services to ensure the best possible result for you as the client.
If you have recovered from a physical trauma, but now experience pain in your feet, lower limbs, or lower back, you can click to book an appointment online or call Trevor Lane Podiatry on 3207 4736.