Today one of my patients said, “I have low back pain and my previous chiropractor told me I have a short leg” and asked me how that can happen. I feel that the downfall of most chiropractors is their lack of time spent educating their patients about chiropractic, so here is what I told him. Unless you had a birth defect or a fracture in the growth plate of one of your leg bones as a child, your legs are most likely the same length when you are standing up or laying down. The most common cause of one leg appearing short relative to the other leg is a misalignment of the pelvis.
In order to understand the mechanics of what’s going on, a quick anatomy lesson is required. The pelvis is made up of three paired bones (ilium, ischium, pubis ) and is the connection between the spine and the legs. The sacrum is the lowest weight bearing bone in the spine and is directly connected to the pelvis by the S.I. (Sacro-Iliac) joints. These joints can be felt below the belt line and above the buttocks as two little bumps. The hip joints are located below and forward in relation to the S.I. joints. When you take a step forward, your pelvis rocks down and back slightly on the sacrum causing the front of the pelvis to rotate upward lifting the hip joint/leg so you can swing your leg forward without dragging your foot on the floor. When your leg extends back and you are pushing off with your toe, your pelvis rocks up and forward on the sacrum pushing your hip/leg down in the front making that leg relatively longer giving your step a forward spring or momentum.
So if one of your S.I. joints get stuck down and back because of tight hamstrings, a long car ride, or hours sitting at the computer, the leg on that side will appear shorter when you stand up or lay down. If one of your S.I. joints get stuck in the up and forward position from falling back on your buttock, horseback riding, or stepping down hard off a curb or stairway, the leg on that side will appear longer when you stand up or lay down. In either of these cases, the symptoms are low back pain, stiffness, muscle aches, and restriction and the cure is simple for the experienced chiropractor. If you or a loved one are suffering from these symptoms or have been told you have a short leg, feel free to call my office for a free consultation.