No one’s body is perfectly symmetrical. For example, most people will have one foot slightly bigger than the other. Likewise, many people have legs that are slightly different lengths.
While sometimes the length of the leg bones is different between legs, sometimes the actual length of the leg is equal, but one leg may function as though it is shorter than the other leg.
When the actual lengths of the legs are different, this is called a structural leg length discrepancy. When the lengths are the same but one leg functions as though it is shorter, this is called a functional leg length discrepancy.
Leg length discrepancies often contribute to overuse injuries affecting only one side of the body. For example, the shorter leg may experience Achilles tendinopathy as the Achilles is always being worked harder on the shorter side to try get you up on your toes to even out the difference.
At Fix podiatry, we can assess your injury and your function to determine if a leg length discrepancy is a contributing factor. If it is, we can then identify whether it is structural or functional and treat it appropriately. Finch therapy is a useful tool for determining which type it is (see Finch Therapy section).
If the difference is structural, a small raise may be placed inside the shoe on the shorter side to reduce this difference. If the difference is functional, we will work to determine the cause for the difference and treat that. For example, a foot that is flat or rolls in when you walk (pronates), is closer to the ground than a foot with an arch or that remains upright when you walk. This means the flat foot may make the leg function short. By improving the posture of your foot and the way it functions, we can correct or reduce this leg length discrepancy.
Correcting a discrepancy allows for improved distribution of the work between the structures and between the legs. This means each muscle carries less load and so is less likely to be injured.
Treating a leg length discrepancy can be useful in the treatment of several conditions. This includes but is not limited to:
- Plantar fasciitis
- Achilles tendinopathy or tendonitis
- Other tendon injuries
- Knee Pain
- Hip Pain
- Back pain
- Ankle Pain
- Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome