A limb length discrepancy is a condition in which one leg is longer than the other.  Some people have this condition and are completely unaware of it, while others experience a great deal of pain and discomfort.  This condition can alter the way you walk, can affect weight distribution during gait, and can in some cases, cause knee and hip problems.  It is normal to have slight variations in the length of the lower limbs.  However, in certain cases, this variation can and will produce clinical symptoms.  Foot specialists deal with and treat limb length discrepancies on a regular basis and are specialized in this area of dysfunction.

As a general rule, patients find it interesting that the long limb gets the worst of it!  In gait the longer leg has to work much harder, travel much farther and therefore wears out much earlier.  Patients often start to put these pieces of the puzzle together when they realize why they have been having problems in only one foot or leg.

What causes it?

Limb length discrepancy may be caused by a number of factors.  Developmental alterations in the womb ca affect how the legs are formed.  Persistent resting and sleeping positions of the growing child can result in limb length variations.  Trauma can also cause a difference in the length of one’s legs.  If a bone breaks in the lower leg, this may be enough to stop the growth of normal bone and cause a limb length discrepancy.  Hereditary factors may also lead to this deformity.  If limb length discrepancies run in the family, this may also increase one’s risk of developing this condition.

How is it treated?

Limb length discrepancies can be treated by a number of methods.  If the dysfunction does not cause any pain or symptoms, it may go untreated.  However, if this dysfunction causes pain, discomfort, or difficulties with ambulation, the condition should be treated.  A thorough examination by a trained specialist should be the first step in any treatment plan.  After a thorough examination, special orthotics or shoe modifications may be made to reestablish limb length equality and improved function.  The orthotics may consist of a simple heel lift or may be customized to the patient’s foot.  These modifications should help to effectively treat the deformity as well as to decrease the compensatory discomfort.

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