Leg Length Difference: Is it Actual or a Muscle Imbalance?

Is One of Your Legs Shorter than the Other?

Sometimes leg length difference is actual but often this is not the case. When we complete a Posture and Gait Analysis and Assessment, issues such as leg length difference become apparent.  We can confirm if there is an actual leg length difference or not. In many cases, we find an Apparent Leg Length Discrepancy.

Actual leg length difference must be measured lying on your back because lateral tilt or pelvic rotation will affect the measurement. The pelvis must be level prior to measuring.IMG_1116

Apparent Leg Length Discrepancy – What is it?

Apparent leg length measurement can be confusing due to the fact that the picture in standing is the opposite of the picture in lying on your back. This is a result of muscle imbalance caused by pelvic tilt instead of an actual leg length difference.

When standing, if the muscle providing weight support is not able to do so due to weakness, then the pelvis will sway to that side and elevate giving the appearance of a longer leg on that side. If this postural deviation has been going on for a long time, there is often another imbalance created affecting lateral trunk muscles to be short and stronger on one side and lengthened and weak on the other side.

When lying supine [on your back], the strong muscles will give the appearance of a higher pelvis on that side pulled up by the strong lateral abdominal trunk muscles which pull the leg up and create the appearance of a shorter leg. Whether or not a lift in a shoe is needed should be determined by standing measurements rather than supine.

If, as a habit, you stand with your weight mainly on one foot with your pelvis swayed to one side, over time you will wind up with weak abductors  especially the gluteus medius on that side (the high side). As a result of this abductor imbalance, tightness often develops in TFL (tensor fasciae latae) along with the IT Band on the other side. The pelvis will tilt down on that side.

When you have muscle imbalances creating an apparent leg length discrepancy, and if you attempt to stand in a balanced way on both feet over a period of time but this does not resolve the issue, then a custom-designed Pilates program with a Pilates specialist will address these imbalances. “One size fits all” classes do not resolve muscle imbalances.

Stretching the IT Band and TFL

The TFL has multiple actions: flexes, abducts and internally rotates the hip joint. It also assists in knee extension. Stretching needs to be directed to the area of the muscle that needs stretching. Some commonly suggested exercises to stretch the TFL do not achieve the correct result. One such stretch, standing with legs crossed, puts the hip joints in adduction. If you then sway sideways, the posterior gluteus medius is stretched rather than the TFL.

As you can see, muscle imbalances are complicated and not corrected by moving short, tight muscles the same as lengthened weak muscles. For further information on how Pilates helps with posture and the correct firing and endurance of deep core muscles, read my blog by clicking the link: http://www.pacificspiritpilates.com/how-pilates-helps-with-posture-and-core-strengthening.

Contact us to make an appointment for a consultation to find out how Pilates and correcting your posture can help you.