What is a Leg Length Discrepancy?

Leg length discrepancy is a notably different length between the entirety of someone’s lower limbs. Mild and unproblematic leg length discrepancies are common, and usually do not require treatment. When a person has a more significant leg length discrepancy, their body may compensate for this by walking in a certain, abnormal way. If this compensation is great enough, it may begin to cause problems affecting the feet, ankle, lower leg, knees, or the lower back.

What causes a Leg Length Discrepancy?

Leg length discrepancy can usually be classified as one of two types:

  • Structural – A difference in the actual lengths of bones in your legs which is measurable with x-rays. These may be congenital, or acquired through trauma such as surgery, an injury, or damage to the growth plate during childhood.
  • Functional – An apparent difference which is usually caused by muscular imbalances in the lower back or upper leg, or bony deformities such as scoliosis.

Outlook for Leg Length Discrepancy

Minor leg length differences are relatively common. If there is less than 1cm difference between the lengths of your legs, it is unlikely that this will cause problems for your feet, legs or back. If you are experiencing symptoms and have a small leg length discrepancy, it may be that there are other abnormalities which are causing this.

Treatment of Leg Length Discrepancy

If your leg length discrepancy is greater than 1cm, this may cause problems for you and correction of this difference may be indicated. Correction of structural leg length discrepancy can be achieved through conservative measures such as heel raises, modification of footwear or orthotic therapy. Surgical methods may also be used if indicated. Correction of functional leg length differences may be achieved through stretching, physical therapy or orthoses to correct gait abnormalities that may lead to abnormalities in your muscles.