What is Short Leg Syndrome?
Short leg syndrome is a condition that is more commonly referred to as leg length discrepancy. People who suffer from SLS have an imbalance in the structure of their lower body, which can alter their posture and lead to not only leg, but also foot, hip, knee and back problems.
There are two distinct types of short leg syndrome – anatomical and functional.
Anatomical SLS is characterised by a length difference of the leg bone, where one leg is noticeably shorter than the other. It can affect either the thighbone or the lower leg bone.
On the other hand, people who suffer from functional SLS have no difference in leg bone length, but rather they present issues with muscle stiffness or imbalance of the hip bones.
What causes a short leg to develop?
Anatomical scoliosis occurs most often due to:
- Congenital defects, including abnormal development of the legs as well as spinal issues such as congenital scoliosis.
- An infection that affects the bone to the extent where it can only be treated surgically.
- Injuries to the leg that happen while a person is still developing physically (e.g. during childhood)
Functional scoliosis is usually the result of:
- Muscle tightness on one side of the (lower) body.
- Injury or imbalance of the hip bones, where one side of the hip bone may be tilted to one side.
- Poor running technique and posture.
- Spinal disorders such as osteoarthritis, which alter the structure of the bone tissue.
Effects of SLS
SLS tends to lead to imbalance on one side of the body, where the pelvis tilts downward to one side, altering the alignment of both the lower and upper body.
As a result, other structures in the lower body, such as the hips, knees and lower back have to overcompensate for the imbalance that is created due to the difference in the leg bone length, and lead to pain.
Given the difference in limb length between one leg and the other, one of the more common issues that people with SLS experience is that of walking problems.
Additionally, SLS places unequal stress on the muscles of the spine, oftentimes resulting in chronic and long-term back pain, as well as tightness and stiffness.
Pain Management and Treatment Options
A short leg can be corrected either surgically or non-surgically. The first option is usually employed when the leg length discrepancy is rather high, but it is rarely necessary for mild cases.
As such, a shorter leg can be corrected by making adjustments for the imbalance that has been caused.
One approach is to insert a heel lift in the shoe of the short leg, especially for people who have anatomical SLS.
Physical therapy may be beneficial for those who suffer from a functional short leg, as it may relax the muscles that are responsible for causing the problem.
However, one major problem that people is common in both types of short leg syndrome is that of back pain. When addressing back pain, it is best to treat the source of the problem, and not just address the symptoms. One great way to do this is to use a special orthopaedic device to decompress your spine, called the Spinal Backrack.
Undertaking spinal decompression treatment with the Backrak may be beneficial on multiple plans. First, it restores the natural space between your vertebrae, which can also help release any trapped nerve roots. Secondly, it helps with posture correction, ensuring that your spine is properly aligned. Lastly, it also a great tool for preventing back pain from returning as with repeated use it trains your spine to stay in the correct position.