Functional Difference of Leg Length | Postural Deviations

The human body is designed magnificently. Even as I rested my head on my pillow to go to sleep last night, I marveled at how wonderfully each part helps and supports the other, all while performing the exact task it is created for. And almost more incredible, is that when one part of the body is injured, the parts surrounding it help support it or compensate for it. Unfortunately, left unaddressed, this wonderful system of assistance for an injury or pain will create more problems. This leads us to a little series on postural deviations.

Postural deviations can happen due to injury, repetition of movement or force on or from the body, or lack of movement in a state of incorrect posture over long periods of time.

Let’s talk a little bit about leg length discrepancies. There is a genetic Leg Length Discrepancy, where one limb is truly longer than the other. This condition only seems to begin to adversely affect the body when it is 3/4″ or greater. This should be diagnosed using medical imaging, as it is not accurate to simply eyeball it or measure it by hand. More commonly, there is a functional difference of leg length, which is what we’ll address with one scenario today. While functional leg length discrepancies are quite common, the actual effects described below are less common, and would be a more extreme case.

For the sake of getting a picture of how functional leg length could affect the body, let’s say something happens to injure or disrupt the SI joint, your piriformis will then lock down to prevent movement of the SI joint. If the source of the problem is left unaddressed, this can cause the femur to drop down in the hip joint on that side of the body, while the pelvis on the other side remains the same, creating a functional difference in leg length.

Should this scenario occur, there will be other areas of the body affected (you knew that was coming!). If the femur is dropped out of the hip joint, the knee will more than likely compensate by rotating inward toward the middle line of the body. And if the knee is improperly rotated, the foot could suffer a decrease in arch and become more flat footed in order to keep the pelvis level. And if the foot/knee cannot keep the pelvis level, then the spine will begin to adapt and could create functional scoliosis (there is a genetic scoliosis, and a functional scoliosis, but we’ll explore this another day, as well).

Within all of the skeletal/joint issues of a functional difference of leg length, muscular imbalances will also occur. The side on which the femur is dropped down, the gluteus medius is now longer and weaker, and the opposite side is now shorter and tighter. This will affect the hamstrings and the adductors and abductors in the legs, and more.

If the SI joint was the source of the problem, we would address it in studio with therapeutic exercises for the SI joint specifically, by balancing the muscular system with proper strength and stretching exercises, strengthening the muscular system of the pelvis and supporting areas of the trunk, and rewiring of the mind/body connection to help return the pelvis and joints of the body to a neutral position.

While you had  no idea you’d be reading a short novel today, perhaps now you’re curious about your own body and its compensations or postural deviations. We can look at your body with a postural analysis and talk more in depth during private sessions. Contact me to schedule your sessions here.