Leg Length Difference & Secondary Effects

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Some people have a leg length difference (LLD) that they are normally unaware of unless informed of by a skilled professional. Remarkably, a LLD is quite common amongst the general population. The degree of such lower limb difference can vary from a mild to a more significant asymmetry. A LLD may contribute to a foot type (e.g. flat feet – pes planus) that places excess load and strain on the body.

The important aspect to understand is that having such a difference may or may not cause symptoms. Such a difference may be linked to a particular problem. It is at the discretion of the skilled clinician whether or not to intervene with a corrective orthotic or shoe device to help alleviate any symptoms associated with the problem or to prevent potential problems from developing in the short or long term.

Many people who lead a more sedentary lifestyle may experience less secondary effects of a LLD than somebody who exerts themselves to a moderate to high level amount of physical exercise or if their occupation entails weight-bearing stress on the body.

Common injuries associated with a LLD seen in everyday life include neck and back pain. This is primarily due to the abnormal stresses placed around the spinal regions. The joints of the lower limb such as the hip, knee, foot and ankle may also show symptoms due to the excessive weight-bearing loads placed on the individual joints. Those who take part in sports may experience such joint problems depending on the level of their individual training programmes. Advanced arthritic changes around specific joints such as the knee and hip joint may progress as years pass by.

Other soft tissue injuries that may be associated with a LLD include sciatica, hip/knee bursitis, ITB syndrome, knee pain, patella tendonitis, patello-femoral joint syndrome (chrondromalacia patella), meniscal injuries (cartilage), shin splints, hamstring & calf pain/tightness, achilles tendonitis, heel pain, plantar fasciitis and other foot pain.

It is important that a skilled physiotherapist or other clinician correctly identifies whether the apparent leg length difference is a true reflection of the actual leg length or if the observed difference stems from muscular (or other soft tissue) tightness or muscle imbalance further up the body around the pelvis and spinal regions.

Please feel free to contact the Manchester (Didsbury) G4 Clinic to speak to a member of the team for any questions that you may have.

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