Leg Length Discrepancy
What is Leg Length Discrepancy?
The definition of a leg length discrepancy (LLD) or leg length inequality is when one leg is shorter than the other. Scientists estimate that approximately 40% to 70% of the population has an LLD, but most people don’t even notice it. However, when there is a significant difference between the legs, it can affect posture, how someone walks, cause strain on muscles and hip joints, and change the spine’s shape. An LLD is typically associated with one of three types:
- One leg becomes shorter.
- One leg becomes longer.
- The pelvis becomes tilted.
One major cause of LLD is previously placed hip replacements. While joint replacement surgeons do their best to recreate your hip’s appropriate geometry, occasionally, this will not be achieved at the time of surgery.
Leg Length Discrepancy Symptoms
Unless the LLD is greater than 1/8 inch, it probably will not be noticeable. However, an LLD longer than 1/8 inch may cause a variety of issues such as:
- Pain in the hips, knees, ankle, lower back, or spine
- Pain more severe on one side of the body than the other
- Hips or rib cage forward more on one side than the other
(when laying on your back)
- Curved spine / poor posture
- Instability and loss of balance
- Loss of muscle tone in one leg more than the other
- Walking with a limp
- Awkward gate, such as shuffling feet, taking shorter steps, walking slowly or stiffly, waddling, jerky movements, head tilted down or sideways
- Clothes may not fit right
Leg Length Discrepancy Diagnosis
An LLD diagnosis begins with a physical examination. The patient may be an infant, a teenager, or adult. The doctor takes a detailed medical history of the patient and family, including asking about injuries or illnesses. The doctor will watch how the patient moves, walks and stands, and may order an X-ray, CT, or MRI. Radiography is most accurate but takes more time and is more costly, so it should be used only when accuracy is critical.
Leg Length Discrepancy Treatments
The treatment for leg length discrepancy depends upon the patient’s age, the cause, and severity of the LLD. For adults, differences of less than 1/2 inch usually do not need to be treated. Sometimes, a lift (or orthotic) can be put in the shorter leg’s shoe to even it out and relieve the pressure. However, a lift will not address the problem’s cause, so a complete and accurate diagnosis is necessary before choosing any treatment.
When the cause of the LLD is muscles that are chronically involuntarily contracted, neuromuscular education may be most effective. Neuromuscular education means retraining the neuromuscular system to function correctly. It is similar to physical therapy (PT) and may include exercises to strengthen and stretch an injured limb.
If these treatments are not adequate for the patient, then surgery may be an option. Your physician will discuss the risks and benefits of surgery to correct LLD.
Leg Length Discrepancy Specialists
Dr Bengs replaced both my knees 2 months apart. Recovery was and still is fantastic would recommend him to everyone. Wonderful doctor I am finally pain free and back walking. Thank You.Laura S of San Luis Obispo said of Dr. Bengs
Excellent Surgeon. Very knowledgeable and confident. Replaced my left knee using the latest technology. Was able to precisely align the bone cuts and implant to exactly match my other good knee. If I or anyone close to me needs joint replacement my first and only recommendation would be Dr. Bengs.WFGiles of Santa Monica said of Dr. Bengs
I had both my knees done 8 1/2 years ago with an excellent result. The 1st one was done, total knee replacement due to the fact I was bone on bone with a lot of pain. At the time I was 62 years old and believe it or not I went back to work 6 days later. I am a truck mechanic and do a lot of heavy duty truck work. 4 weeks after the 1st knee replacement I had the second done with the same result. I am not an athlete or work out at the gym but guess I have good genes. I am also average weight for my size, 5/10 175lbs. I can’t say enough about Dr. Yun other he is an excellent surgeon.Robert B of Culver City said of Dr. Yun
Dr Yun is the finest surgeon I’ve ever encountered. I found him by asking every doctor friend of mine: “who would you have perform a knee replacement on you or on a family member?” The overwhelming response was Dr Yun. He performed a partial knee replacement on me about four months ago. The procedure was an absolute success and i have the highest praise for Dr Yun as a result of my experience.Michael B of Manhattan Beach said of Dr. Yun