This is the the 5th edition of our Monday myths series! This is where we take a myth in the chiropractic or health industry, break it down, and replace it with an even better truth!
Monday Myth #5 is that your leg length discrepancy or slight difference in hip height is causing your low back pain or is going to cause you low back pain. There is a lot to unpack in this myth. For the record, there is some research that shows that if you have a leg length discrepancy, there is some correlation with low back pain.
There’s also just as much research out there that shows no correlation or no relationship with a leg length discrepancy and low back pain. We have a few thoughts on this that will help simplify why pinning your low back pain on a difference in leg length or hip height is not the best approach!
Thoughts About Low Back Pain and Leg Length!
First off, we don’t know if the leg length discrepancy started before or after the low back pain. The reason this is important is that when we are in pain, we change our postures and movement patterns. We sit in different positions, we walk a little bit differently, we have different muscular activity and muscle guarding patterns as well. These altered postures and movement patterns from low back pain can certainly alter the length of our legs. So this shows that a leg length discrepancy can simply be a by product of low back pain and not the cause.
Next, whenever we see research on leg length discrepancy and low back pain, they are only taking into account one mechanical variable. There’s other very relevant mechanical variables, such as strength, endurance, and mobility of your low back muscles and joints. Research does show a correlation in low back pain and a lack of strength and mobility in your low back.
So if someone has a short leg or a higher hip on one side, but they also have restricted mobility in their low back, and they have poor endurance in their low back muscles; who is to say that it’s because of the leg length discrepancy that they may have low back pain? Why couldn’t it be from a lack of mobility or muscular endurance?
The next factor we’ll discuss is that pain is very multidimensional and multi-factorial. Mechanical factors like strength and mobility can influence pain levels but there is also a number of other factors like the quality and quantity of food that you eat, how much sleep you get at night, how you manage your stress, your activity levels, your emotions, and much more. All of these factors can play into the presence of low back pain.
Another reason we cannot blame our low back pain on our hip height or leg length is because our bones have slightly different shapes and lengths! This is because of the way we were born and how our skeleton develops. It is completely natural and somewhat normal to have a little bit of a variation in your bone lengths from your right side to your left side. Our feet, shins, thighs, and pelvis could all have differences in shape and size that could give the appearance of an altered hip height or leg length, but it is just the made we were made!
To recap, other mechanical variables such as mobility and strength can contribute to pain, pain is just far too multi-dimensional to say that one mechanical variable is causing your low back pain, unless we were to do an x-ray or your entire lower body and pelvis we wouldn’t even know if your leg length is because of actual bone length or just because of your muscles pulling a little bit more in one direction!
At St. Johns Chiropractic & Performance, we focus much more on function than structure. We want you to have the necessary range of motion and strength that you need so that you can perform your best at whatever it is that you love the most in life and that you want to spend your time doing in life.
We wouldn’t be doing our due diligence if we simply decided to just treat your “short leg” or “high hip” and then send you away. With this being said, you should not think that your leg length discrepancy or hip height difference is the sole reason for your low back pain. Now that you know this to be a myth, go tell a friend!