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Why You Likely Suffer From Leg-Length Discrepancy, Linked to Chronic Pain

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What would you say if I told you that one of your legs is “longer” than the other and contributing to the acute or chronic pain you’re experiencing? And, if you’re not feeling pain yet, that this “longer”-leg situation is creating an environment for you to experience compensation, limitation, functional loss and, perhaps eventually, chronic pain and even extreme mobility issues.

Let’s dive in to a phenomenon known as leg-length discrepancy, one of the most-prevalent health conditions and one that few people are actually aware they suffer from despite suffering throughout their bodies in many other commonly known ways.

What Is Leg-Length Discrepancy?

Leg-length discrepancy, also referred to as LLD or anisomelia, is a health condition in which the legs bear a noticeably unequal length.

Some people are born with leg-length discrepancy, but considering that birth defects, in general, affect one in 33 babies, or about 3 percent of the U.S. population each year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, something else is at play because the reality is many more people than not suffer from leg-length discrepancy.

Leg-length discrepancy - chronic pain - leg illustration - Fruit-Powered
Leg-length discrepancy can affect your ability to walk, jog, run and jump as well as trigger a long list of conditions that can negatively impact your health. Journal articles report that as much as 90 percent of the population suffers from leg-length discrepancy, but I believe this incidence rate is even higher.

How Common Is Leg-Length Discrepancy?

Leg-length discrepancy is much more common than you might imagine. As much as 90 percent of the population suffers from leg-length discrepancy, according to The Journal of the Canadian Chiropractic Association’s “Leg Length Discrepancy and Osteoarthritis in the Knee, Hip and Lumbar Spine.” Another report, Chiropractic & Osteopathy’s “Anatomic and Functional Leg-Length Inequality: A Review and Recommendation for Clinical Decision-Making,” also presents a 90 percent incidence rate.

The fact that as many as nine out 10 people are affected by leg-length discrepancy makes for a health epidemic almost no one is talking about. What people are talking about, however, are the symptoms caused by leg-length discrepancy.

The list of symptoms caused by leg-length discrepancy is a mile long, and I’ll cover some key ones shortly in this story.

For the record, I believe the incidence rate of leg-length discrepancy is greater than 90 percent.

How I Initially Learned About Leg-Length Discrepancy

I suffered from chronic pain—back pain, neck pain, carpal tunnel syndrome and cubital tunnel syndrome—from 2000 to 2010. During this 10-year period, I pursued chiropractic care and massage therapy. Each modality provided some short-term health benefits, but neither are designed to address the causes of chronic pain and, thus, you never really get better with them. The same can be said of pilates and yoga, the latter of which has been soaring in popularity but doesn’t help correct a misaligned body nearly as well as another highly effective and specialized form of physical therapy. In fact, yoga can be downright dangerous for people with majorly misaligned bodies because they cannot balance themselves well and because of other reasons.

Two years before my first chiropractic session, I was exposed to the concept of leg-length discrepancy while covering a borough fair as a newspaper reporter in summer 2003. A local chiropractor offered free consultations as a way to promote her business, and I hopped on her chiropractic table. She told me that one leg was between 1 and 2 inches longer than the other leg.

What?” I exclaimed, shooting up from the table in alarm.

I looked at her with a mixture of disbelief, panic and fear, and she told me I needed to pursue chiropractic care to even my legs.

Leg-length discrepancy - chronic pain - chiropractor measuring legs - Fruit-Powered
When the legs are of unequal lengths because of a hip misalignment, injuries and/or surgeries, or birth defects, the body will experience compensation, limitation, functional loss and, very likely, chronic pain.

Knowing what I know now as a posture trainer, guiding others to enjoy pain relief and peak performance in my Posture Exercises Method, and having read the horror stories involved with chiropractic care, surgery and other so-called treatments for chronic pain in Crooked: Outwitting the Back Pain Industry and Getting on the Road to Recovery, I believe that chiropractic care is not the solution one should pursue to address leg-length discrepancy and linked symptoms such as any kind of chronic pain and poor posture.

Several months ago, I learned about corrective footwear and heel inserts designed to help people get a leg up, so to speak, on their leg-length discrepancy. Count this story as a warning signal to avoid seeking out such products unless your leg is indeed physically longer than the other. Most people, however, are saddled with a different kind of cause—and there’s a much better solution available. If you’re in this latter camp, this kind of “corrective footwear” can only lead your body farther astray of the healing it desperately needs and is calling you to pursue with every step you take.

Why I Suffered From Leg-Length Discrepancy

Just months after graduating from Penn State University and getting into the swing of my career in journalism, I found that my body wasn’t up to the task of having my hand on a computer mouse for as long as seven hours out of an eight-hour workday as a newspaper page designer and copy editor five afternoons and nights a week.

When I changed hands in journalism and became a reporter, my pain eased but only somewhat. There were many times when my right thumb would twitch involuntarily and when I would wring my hands and wrists when the pain came screaming at me. Handwriting, a necessary skill when you’re covering the news, became challenging.

Truly, though, I suffered from leg-length discrepancy from causes much deeper than extended computer use. The seeds for my leg-length discrepancy were sown as far back as in utero and during my birth, with craniosacral fascial strain likely affecting me from my earliest time onward. Add modern living to the mix and no posture correction exercises despite a wildly active and athletic youth—playing a mixture of organized and neighborhood football, basketball, baseball and hockey—and my uneven joint alignment produced a body in which one leg could be perceived to be “longer” than the other.

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Causes of Leg-Length Discrepancy in Adults

What causes leg-length discrepancy?

I believe there are three broad causes of leg-length discrepancy in adults:

■   Birth defects
■   Injuries and/or surgeries
■   Hip misalignment

Birth defects, as established earlier, affect 3 percent of the U.S. population. Injuries such as badly broken bones and surgeries likely affect another single-digit percentage of the U.S. population. One example of this is former Washington (I’m not saying the old nickname of my favorite team from my youth) quarterback Joe Theismann’s career-ending compound fracture of his right tibia and fibula at the hands of New York Giants linebacker Lawrence Taylor in 1985. Yes, this injury is still talked about and was in the spotlight again when another Washington quarterback, Alex Smith, went down with an eerily similar injury in 2018. Theismann’s fracture was so severe that, when Theismann’s right leg healed, it was shorter than it had been before the injury.

So if it is believed that as many as nine out of 10 are affected by leg-length discrepancy, then this leaves a lot of people affected by hip misalignment.

I’m not surprised whatsoever.

Since April 2010, I’ve embraced a practically daily posture exercises practice, showing up for myself 98 percent of all these days and putting in the time I need for me to feel my best. I haven’t missed a single day of practice since September 2016, or 1,466 consecutive days, on the date of this story’s publication. If this streak doesn’t hammer home how good it feels to live in a body engaging in these exercises, I don’t know what will. Since July 2016, I’ve guided clients to improve their joint alignment and posture through practice of posture exercise routines I custom-build for them based on what their bodies need. Suffice it to say, I am fascinated by the body’s design when it comes to posture, joint alignment and exercise as well as diet.

Each of my clients’ posture photos reveal a story. In the overwhelming majority of cases, the cause of clients’ chronic pain is a misaligned pelvis and hip joints. Once the pelvis and hips go out of their neutral position, the body succumbs to all kinds of misalignment issues. The legs turn inward or outward, triggering knee and ankle pain and leading to back pain, neck pain and even headaches and migraines. The shoulders are mirrors of the hips, so if you have one hip that’s cocked an inch or two higher than the other, creating leg-length discrepancy, you’re very likely to have a shoulder that’s an inch or two higher than the other. This is how the body instinctively seeks to balance itself.

Trust that your body is doing everything possible to give you its best so you can live and perform. It is up to us to return the favor to our bodies and give our best in terms of embracing the finest practices in exercise and diet.

Leg-length discrepancy - chronic pain - man with wrist pain - Fruit-Powered
My leg-length discrepancy was caused by a misaligned pelvis and hip joints, which precipitated so many other misalignments throughout my body. At the height of my experience with chronic pain, in 2009 and 2010, I was uneducated on how major-joint misalignment and resultant poor posture affects the body, but I suffered through unbearable days with carpal tunnel syndrome, cubital tunnel syndrome and a rounded back and rounded neck. I used to wring my hands and wrists to provide mild and temporary pain relief.

How to Measure Leg-Length Discrepancy

Leg-length discrepancy measurement can be looked at in a couple of different ways. First, there is the possibility that your legs are physically different in length, and, if so, this may be attributed to a birth defect or the results of an injury and/or surgery. Second, there is the possibility that your hips are uneven, with one raised higher than the other, creating the illusion that your legs are not matching up in length. Most people affected by leg-length discrepancy have an elevated or depressed hip, producing this perception of leg-length discrepancy.

The best way to measure leg-length discrepancy is to lie on a floor, with a family member or friend measuring the distance of each leg from the anterior inferior iliac spine, or the pronounced notch in the front side of your hip joint, to the malleolus, or the pronounced ankle bone.

Some Posture Exercises Method clients who came to me while suffering from an immense amount of chronic pain reported that they received X-rays from doctors and chiropractors that revealed hip misalignment, with one hip raised anywhere from a few millimeters to a few inches higher than the other. I am not an advocate of X-rays because of radiation concerns except for when absolutely necessary.

How Much Leg-Length Discrepancy Is Normal?

Some in the health-care community might argue that minimal amounts of leg-length discrepancy is normal.

Not me.

In my view, any amount of leg-length discrepancy is a recipe for the body to suffer from compensation, limitation, functional loss and chronic pain.

Just picture yourself with a right hip joint elevated 2 inches compared with your left hip joint. Your right leg would have “run out of leg” while your left foot is planted on the ground, and your body has to compensate significantly for you to even stand. Think about how this leg-length discrepancy would affect your ability to walk, jog, run and jump. Think about your whole body’s kinetic chain, with different parts throughout your body being affected by what happens—or doesn’t happen—with one part.

Just as 2-inch-high heels tilt the pelvis forward, tremendously straining your back, shoulders and neck, so, too, do sneakers in which the heels are raised even a half-inch, albeit to a lesser degree.

This same heels example fits like a glove when considering how any degree of difference in leg-length discrepancy can negatively impact the body.

Effects of Leg-Length Discrepancy

Can leg-length discrepancy cause back pain? Yes. Can leg-length discrepancy cause hip pain? Sure thing. Can leg-length discrepancy cause knee pain? Absolutely. How about neck pain, shoulder pain and ankle pain? You bet—plus so much more.

Leg-length discrepancy - chronic pain - man clutching knee pain - Fruit-Powered
Leg-length discrepancy can certainly lead to knee pain as well as ankle pain, hip pain, back pain, shoulder pain, neck pain and many other kinds of symptoms. For most people, the cause of leg-length discrepancy is hip misalignment.

The effects of leg-length discrepancy are monumental. As I’ve highlighted, for most folks, leg-length discrepancy is a symptom of their hip misalignment. Additionally, with a tilted pelvis, uneven hips represent the driver for most joint irregularities up, down and across the body. Misalignment of the shoulders, hips, knees and ankles creates an endless list of health conditions, including a rounded neck, rounded back, carpal tunnel syndrome, cubital tunnel syndrome, sciatica, herniated disks and pronated ankles.

Moreover, poor joint alignment and posture affects every system in the body such as the cardiovascular, digestive, immune, metabolic, nervous and respiratory systems.

Whether your hips joints are misaligned by a half-inch or 3 full inches, you’re at risk of hamstringing your body, affecting you a little more day by day, week by week, month by month and year by year.

Do you ever wonder why most folks in the sunset of their lives don’t move well, let alone unable to stand straight as an arrow? A misaligned body is the reason through and through—not “old age.”

How to Treat Leg-Length Discrepancy

How to correct a leg-length discrepancy and how to fix functional leg-length discrepancy should be on your mind by now, if you care deeply about your health. I don’t have to sell anyone on the idea that they likely will experience moderate to severe mobility issues as they age. With a seat on a bench in a bustling park on a sun-splashed day and an hour of time, the future that you may very well face will shuffle across your view, sometimes with canes and walkers in hand, and looks of grimace and struggle. There’s not much freedom to be enjoyed when your body feels as if it’s under arrest and severely limited.

Many Fruit-Powered Magazine readers are exploring, transitioning to and thriving on a fruitarian diet. This powerful lifestyle can certainly help ease joint pain, thanks to the elimination of such acidifying foods, but it’s not going to correct a pelvis that’s tilted backward, hip joints that are a few inches from neutral alignment and massively rotated femurs that put your knees and feet pointing at 10 and 2 o’clock as opposed to high noon. A body like this is bound to have a back that aches, neck that juts forward and shoulders that slump forward. How well do you think you digest food if you are burdened with a severely rounded back, a condition that’s becoming increasingly prevalent in a world in which many are on laptops and mobile phones 10 to 12 hours a day, hunching and hunching without honoring their body’s design and without strong muscles to properly hold their bodies in place? How well can you even breathe? What does all this look like for you in five years? Ten years? How about 20 years?

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I’ve seen what happens to people who ignore their bodies’ cries for help, and it’s not a pretty picture. I know people who walk with a shuffle of just a few inches and have fallen multiple times in recent months and still can’t bring themselves to take action with powerful posture exercises. I had a grandmother whose sedentary lifestyle left her confined to her bed and couch while enduring agonizing pain for the final decade of her life. Imagine what your life would be like if you don’t have the ability to take a simple stroll around your block and knowing that your choices have held you back from participating in life’s activities as you wish.

My grandmother didn’t take action. Will you?

Leg-Length Discrepancy Exercises

When it comes to treating leg-length discrepancy, only posture exercises tailored for your exact joint misalignments and posture along with your commitment to doing them “on the reg” is going to help you enjoy your life a whole lot more, giving you the priceless gift of true and lasting pain relief and the triumphant feeling that you’re moving your body as nature intended—with peak performance! From professional athletes to tech-crazed children and grandmothers who want to walk up a storm every afternoon in enjoying the great outdoors, everyone would benefit from doing posture exercises routines customized for their bodies.

Ten-and-a-half years into my practice of posture exercises, I believe there’s not an exercise program in the world that can match my Posture Exercises Method for treating leg-length discrepancy—or any other physical ailment whose root cause is suboptimal posture and the alignment of the major joints: the shoulders, hips, knees and ankles. Clients and I will tell you that these exercises are fun, feel divinely wonderful and make you strong throughout your body, especially in areas you rarely, if ever, exercised before. Just as when you feed your body fruit, it asks for more fruit, when you give your body posture exercises, it calls you to do them regularly because you and your day and tomorrow will be much better because of them.

Woman running in a park - Fruit-Powered
Reclaim your power over a body hampered by leg-length discrepancy and, for most, hip misalignment and all the symptoms it causes. Thrive while enjoying the freedom that living in a functional body gives you now and for the rest of your life. Brian Rossiter works with Posture Exercises Method clients globally via video chat and purchased routines based on their posture and joint-alignment needs.

Put an end to the aches and pains that you wish would go away each time you rub your ankles, wring your hands and wrists, clutch your neck and massage your back.

Put all the compensation, limitation, functional loss and chronic pain you face or likely will face at various stages of your life firmly in your rearview mirror.

Power up your life and level your hips and other load-bearing joints by embracing the Fruit-Powered Life Force Center‘s Posture Exercises Method, packed with the best exercises to fix leg-length discrepancy.

Let’s get started together!

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