Leg length discrepancy is a condition, in which one leg is shorter than other or both the legs appear of unequal lengths. As one leg is shorter than other, they do not touch the floor normally. This can result in some compensatory behaviors to forcefully adjust walking with legs of unequal lengths. There can be various problems caused by one leg shorter than other, which needs to be understood and evaluated properly.
Leg length discrepancy is commonly seen in young children as well as adult population. The causes of limb length discrepancy can range from injuries, bone diseases or infections to being congenital. While the causes of having one leg shorter than other are many, it is also important to understand the effects of leg length discrepancy. Problems caused by one leg shorter than other usually include physical problems, both structural and functional and even emotional issues.
Problems Caused By One Leg Shorter Than Other
The effects and problems caused by leg length discrepancy can vary from person to person. Some people may have very minimal difference in the leg lengths and may not experience any noticeable changes or problems. However, in some, the leg lengths may be considerably different, which can cause various problems and affect their health. People involved in fitness activities or sports may find it difficult, due to the problems caused by one leg shorter than the other. Proper diagnosis and appropriate treatment can help to correct the leg length discrepancy and related problems too, if identified promptly.
Some problems caused by one leg shorter than other include
Physical Problems Due to One Leg Shorter Than Other
Problems caused by one leg shorter than other can be related to functional and structural changes in the hip bone axis
Tilting of Hip
In most cases, the hip or pelvic bone may get tilted to one side, as the shorter leg tries to match with the other leg when standing or walking. It can also affect the muscles around the hip joint and those of the legs, as they can develop contractures, muscles may remain weak, which can affect their functional abilities as well. A tilted hip axis and both hip joints at unequal level is a common problems of having one leg shorter than the other. One hip may appear more prominent than the other.
As one leg is shorter than other, the person may have to work harder to make up for the unequal leg lengths. This can cause the muscles on one side to get pulled and the one side of the body experiences more pressure than the other. Body asymmetry is one of the common problems caused by one leg shorter than the other. The back muscles can experience asymmetry, which can cause muscle weakness or contractures. Problems caused by one leg shorter than other can begin with functional problems but can further lead to structural problems. The spinal curvature too can get disturbed, affect normal posture and also increase the risk of back problems like scoliosis. Severe degree of changes in spinal curvature can affect the functional capacity of the organs and structures in the chest region.
Gait Problems Caused Due to One Leg Shorter Than the Other
Gait problems can be caused by one leg shorter than other due to limping, in most people. This can be true limp or can occur because the tilted hip bone may give an appearance as if the person is walking with a limp, which can result in further changes in the structure of limbs. There may be problems in activities, which bear weight on hips and legs.
Functional Difficulties Caused Due to One Leg Shorter Than Other
The person may find it difficult to stand for longer time as the shorter leg may have to be supported always with knees or toes. This can lead to bending and bearing weight on the knee, which can further give rise to problems in the knee, ankle and foot. Children may walk on toes to match the leg of unequal lengths. Similarly, the person may experience problems while walking or running and may not be able to perform high impact activities very well.
Joint Problems Caused By One Leg Shorter Than Other
Research studies also believe that in some persons, limping or gait changes, difference in weight bearing can increase risk of bone and joint problems. Tilting of the hip bone and limping can lead to pain in knee, ankle and the feet. Problems caused by one leg shorter than other often revolves around inappropriate posture of a person. This can eventually affect the spine, hip, knee and other joints. In some cases, it can cause early wear and tear of joints and can increase risk of joint problems in future. Low back pain may be commonly experienced along with other problems caused by one leg shorter than other.
While there is need for more research, increased risk of injuries can be another problem caused by one leg shorter than other, as body asymmetry and weak muscles can affect balance and co-ordination.
Emotional Problems Caused by One Leg Shorter Than Other
As the problems caused by one leg shorter than other are many, a person may find it difficult to cope with them. Moreover, as children and teenagers are commonly seen experiencing this condition, problems caused due to one leg shorter than other can affect their personality. The structural changes and limping gait are noticeable, which can make them conscious about the appearance and may feel depressed.
As the problems from leg length discrepancy also affect the functional capabilities, children or adults, who may not be able to participate in certain activities may feel rejected and worthless. Not being able to perform as their peers, is a feeling, which can make them feel miserable and they may end up having low self-confidence.
Simply said, problems caused by one leg shorter than the other, include changes in the body structure, appearance, body movements and also functional capabilities. As the muscles are compromised, the person may get easily fatigued and may not be able to sustain particular activities for long. All these can have adverse effects on their physical as well as emotional health and affect their overall performance. However, with timely diagnosis and appropriate treatment, complications can be avoided and complete recovery can be expected.