How to even out leg lengths?
August 8, 2008 11:21 AM   Subscribe

How can I even out a leg length discrepancy?

Like most people, one side of my body is slightly bigger than the other. It never bothered me or was even noticeable in any way, until I put a tiny tear in a left hip muscle in an accident last July. I saw an orthopedist and went though a short round of physical therapy, but my left leg seems shorter and smaller than ever.

I think it must be a result of compensating for the healing side - I walked with a limp for a long time. Now, when I walk I don't limp exactly, but I've noticed that it's not a steady clop-clop-clop-clop - more of a slight CLOP clop CLOP clop. In front of a full length mirror, my right hipbone is clearly like half an inch to an inch above my left one. Sitting in a chair, I lean a little to the left. With a measuring tape, my right thigh is nearly two inches larger in circumference than my left, where they were about even before.

None of this would bother me too much, but as I'm upping my weekly running mileage, it's becoming really noticeable. I've hit 35-40 miles a week, and my left hip joint is always sore, and I've got constant IT band and hip flexor issues on that side.

SO. I'm focusing on stretching that leg, of course, and doing leg work on both sides separately to help symmetry, and being fierce about pilates. I tried running today with Superfeet only in my left shoe (Superfoot?) and a regular insole in my right shoe, and that seemed to help a little with during-run pain and fatigue. In regular walking, I'm focusing on walking evenly and smoothly. Is there anything else I can do at home to help even it out, before I go see the orthopedist again? Is that the right person to go to? Thanks AskMe!
posted by peachfuzz to Health & Fitness (8 answers total)
Any chance you can go back to physical therapy? I was having hip pain when running for a similar reason (different leg lengths contorting my hips, causing the shorter side to hurt like hell) and it really helped.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 11:40 AM on August 8, 2008

you have the right idea: use insoles to adjust the height of the shorter leg.
posted by lester at 11:40 AM on August 8, 2008

I have a leg length discrepancy issue that gives me IT band trouble when I run high mileage. The only way I was able to overcome it was by visiting my local Egoscue clinic, which specializes in correcting your posture. I have a few sets of exercises/stretches I do that help the discrepancy (mine was an acquired discrepancy, which yours likely is). You really should check it out.. but nobody ever does when I tell them :)
posted by PFL at 11:56 AM on August 8, 2008

Insoles are the cheapest way, I'd imagine.
Foot orthotics in general.

Get a fix for it ASAP, because you do not want to rely on physical therapy for the rest of your life, and long-term damage can be debilitating.
posted by Ky at 12:12 PM on August 8, 2008

I, too, have slightly different leg lengths that cause me IT band/hip flexor trouble when running. I saw a sports medicine doctor a couple of years ago who gave me a few simple physical therapy exercises to do, and when I faithfully do them, the pain goes away. The thing that helps me most is to do the sort of standard seated piriformis stretch, but in a very, very mild form, so I can't even feel stretching, then I hold it for about 15-20 minutes.

For me, the key is not to specifically attack the IT band itself — though massaging it does seem to help — but to get my hip muscles to open up a little more instead of clinching up to compensate for my unevenness. I'll caution you, though, that while doing yoga that concentrated on hip opening poses helped with the hip pain in the short term, some of the poses just transferred all that stress to my knees instead.
posted by adiabat at 12:27 PM on August 8, 2008

Do you every try streching the psoas muscle? My leg length discrepancy affects my gait, which results in my hip muscles tightening up. Regular yoga seems to help, especially when I focus on the hips and quads.

A custom orthodic insert is probably the best way to go for the long term.
posted by Shazbot at 12:49 PM on August 8, 2008

If you're interested, here's a blog by a girl who had one leg surgically lengthened.
posted by xo at 3:09 PM on August 8, 2008

When I had IT band problems, my PT found a slight discrepancy in my leg lengths, so she sent me to a chiropractor in the same practice. He cracked my way lower back into place and I was amazed at the difference it made. It took a couple of visits to him to stay back in place, but it resolved the leg length problem and seemed to help with the IT problems as well. It might be worth trying, although your problem sounds a little more serious than mine. Doctor first, for sure.

You also want to make sure you don't run the same route in the same direction every day, especially if it is a paved road or path--the slight tilt in the paving can cause problems after awhile.
posted by min at 3:22 PM on August 14, 2008

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