Leg Length Discrepancy & Its Impact on the Muscular System


If you have been to your doctor, physical therapist or chiropractor for lower back pain, you may have been diagnosed with a leg length discrepancy as the cause. This physical condition is where one leg is longer than the other. While there may be several reasons for having lower back pain, researchers at Mayo Clinic state that 23% of the population has a leg length discrepancy of at least 1 centimeter. However, there have been many misdiagnosed cases where individuals have paid for orthotics they really did not need. In this post, I am going to discuss causes for leg length discrepancies and how the muscular system may affect one leg to appear to be longer than the other.

Leg Length Discrepancy Causes

This condition could have occurred as a birth defect, as the result of an Injury, or after surgery. While a slight difference in leg length may not cause symptoms, a significant discrepancy in length can cause a limp and make it difficult to run or otherwise workout.

For some, before they took their first step, they were diagnosed with a leg length discrepancy. These individuals may have a femur or tibia that may have grown longer than the other. Having an abnormally shaped head of the femur will also cause some discrepancy. Young children who have had damage to their growth plate will have an issue with bone length and shape.

Adults who have an injury to the head of the femur may lose some leg length mainly due to surgery. Surgeries such as complete hip replacements or knee replacements often lead to a leg length difference due to the loss of bone and original structure.

You may have been misdiagnosed with a leg length discrepancy if your healthcare provider didn’t take X-rays or measure the length of your femur or tibia. Muscle moves bones. When dealing with an injury, it’s common for muscles to tighten up to protect the joint.

How It Impacts the Muscular System

Often, we forget that muscle moves bones. It is difficult to address joint movement and function during your training if the muscular system is not addressed.

You may have been misdiagnosed with a leg length discrepancy if your healthcare provider did not take X-rays or measure the length of your femur or tibia. It is common for muscles to tighten up to protect the joint from further injury.

So, if one or more of the muscles that support the hip is weak or tight it may position your hips in an abnormal position. This will naturally either rotate your hips or hike them. This protection mechanism that our body performs will, in fact, make one leg look as if it is longer than the other. Unlike a real leg length discrepancy diagnosis, hip positioning can be corrected and improved. Increasing exercise, stretching, and therapies like massage can help to relax muscles and make your stride normal again.

My Point

If you believe that you may have been misdiagnosed with a leg discrepancy, ask your medical provider for X-rays and a proper exam to confirm. If there is no structural abnormality, then you may simply be out of alignment with your hips.

I recommend you see a muscle activation technique specialist (M.A.T) or massage therapist to address the muscular systems role in your hip alignment. Understand the two modalities are not the same. Massage relaxes and releases muscles while M.A.T exercise activates and strengthens them. In some cases, you may need to see both specialists to address the problem

Call a Tampa MAT Personal Trainer

Maurice Harden is a certified, M.A.T. trainer in Tampa, FL. Contact me to learn about how a consistent exercise routine may help with your leg length discrepancy and other muscle imbalances – 813-422-5671.