While many forms of back pain arise from a traumatic injury like a pulled muscle or chipped vertebrae, problems with your body's natural posture can also lead to chronic and life altering pain. Some studies show that up to 90% of people feature at least a tiny inequality in leg length, but it's the larger leg length differences that result in serious lower back pain. Find out if you simply need to correct a simple problem to enjoy less pain.
How Much Length Difference Is A Problem?
With so many people walking around with minor length differences causing them no problems at all, obviously it's not always the cause of back pain. Most troublesome symptoms start to show up in patients with at least a 3/4 inch difference between their two legs. If your podiatrist or chiropractor finds out that you've got an even bigger gap to overcome, there's a good chance your back pain could be reduced by compensating for the imbalance. Even when another underlying cause is the culprit behind the pain, an even leg balance can at least reduce inflammation and stress on the spine.
What Is The Best Way To Measure The Legs?
Don't rush to whip out the measuring tape and get a family member to check your legs. Measurements taken this way, even by a doctor, are not trustworthy enough to base a medical decision on. Instead, request testing like
- X-rays taken with marked plates to note the height differences in the major hip and knee joints
- CT and MRI scans, if exact details are required to rule out the need for surgery
- Wooden block measurements, in which x-rays are taken progressive as blocks are added until the hip joints are even.
Any doctor with the right imaging technology can handle the testing, but you'll need a professional experienced in treating anatomical imbalances and fixing back pain to determine what kind of treatment to use on your leg lift issue.
Why Does This Problem Cause Back Pain?
Whether one leg is actually short or it's a muscle and bone problem pulling one side higher than the other, the result is an uneven gait. Wobbling back and forth as you walk puts more stress on the muscles in the back. The pain can show up in the long or short side depending on how you walk, but either way it'll be concentrated in the lower back and surrounding areas.
What Are The Signs Of A Leg Length Discrepancy?
Aside from lower back pain, you may notice your steps are uneven or you stumble more easily on one side than the other. Most patients with this kind of imbalance also feel plenty of discomfort in the knees and hips as well, usually on one side at a time. You may even notice you look uneven after taking a good look at yourself in a full length mirror. However, most people never notice any concrete symptoms aside from unspecific back and hip pain.
How Does A Heel Lift Help?
Heel lifts are usually used to balance out the discrepancy, but not always in the most obvious way. Some patients respond best to using a lift in the short leg to create an even fit across both feet. Others need the lift on the opposite foot, as backwards as that may sound, if the spine tilted to compensate because this can push the hip down on the longer side. Only a doctor can determine how best to fit the heel lift to your personal alignment situation. Experimenting on your own with even a basic tool like a heel lift could greatly increase your back pain instead of reducing it.
If you suspect that one of your legs may be significantly longer than the other, don't hesitate to reach out to a professional like Southwest Florida Neurosurgical Associates.