Have you been struggling to find the cause of your lower back pain? Have you seen multiple doctors, tried different therapies, but never really fixed the problem? Do you feel like you constantly need to be adjusted to stay out of pain? Surprisingly, correcting a leg length discrepancy might be the solution to all of these problems.
One of the most common causes of lower back pain is pelvic tilt. This occurs when your pelvis shifts to one side or the other, causing pressure on the sacroiliac (SI) joints. This pressure leads to lower back pain. The SI joints are the foundation for your spine, so if you have a pelvic tilt, it can also lead to issues in the neck and upper back as well. For years, chiropractors have had success by adjusting the SI joints and helping correct pelvic tilt. Adjustments are highly effective in treating this problem, if the tilt is caused by a misalignment in your pelvis or sacrum. But what if adjustments aren’t relieving your pain, or you feel like the adjustment doesn’t “hold” and you need to constantly be re-adjusted?
In this case, there is a chance that you have an anatomical short leg. This means that you have one leg that is naturally shorter than the other. A chiropractor can adjust you every day, but they can’t make your leg any longer. But, how can we determine whether you have a short leg, or not?
Leg Length X-Ray
Recently, we have started to take a specific x-ray that allows us to measure the exact length of each leg. This measurement can be made by combining x-rays of the hips, knees and ankles. Then, we are able to measure the exact length of your tibia (upper leg) and fibula (lower leg). Adding these together gives us the exact length of the bones in each leg.
We have found that a difference of less than 3 millimeters (mm) between legs is usually not significant, and no additional treatment is required. However, if there is a difference of 3 mm or more, a heel lift is usually recommended. This helps raise one leg higher, evening out the leg length and helping pelvic tilt.
What is a Heel Lift?
When they hear about a heel lift, people are often worried and think that the heel of their shoe has to be built up. Don’t worry! In the vast majority of cases, a heel lift, a small insert that goes inside the shoe, can be used to even leg length. No one will ever even know that you are wearing one. If you need or wear orthotics, specially made shoe inserts, the heel lift can often be built into the orthotic, so that you don’t need an additional insert.
In very few cases, an extreme (greater than 9 mm) leg length discrepancy is observed. In these cases, a shoe hospital may have to build up the outside of the shoe to correct the discrepancy. However, as mentioned, these cases are rare, and are usually the result of trauma, like a broken leg, or surgery, such as hip replacement surgery.
If you are having chronic lower back pain that doesn’t seem to go away, or you are someone who gets relief from chiropractic care, but it doesn’t seem to last, a leg length discrepancy may be the cause. At Apex Chiropractic, we can diagnose and help treat this discrepancy.
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