How to identify and treat the Short Leg

Short leg syndrome, scientifically called lower limb dysmetria, is a situation in which one leg is shorter than the other and the difference between them can vary from less than 1 cm to several centimeters and the greater this difference, the more discomfort the individual will experience and the worse the prognosis.

The short leg can be classified as either true or false. The true short leg occurs when the leg bones are actually shorter and is called the false short leg when the length of the leg bones is the same, but there is a gap in the hip.

It is possible to cure the short leg, leaving both the same size, but the treatments vary according to their cause and, therefore, each case must be discussed personally with the orthopedist.

How to confirm that a leg is shorter

When the person has more than 2cm of difference in length between the legs, it is possible to observe his misaligned body, however, when the shortening is less than 2cm, it can be observed that one leg is greater than another when the person lies on his stomach. up and bend your legs. When one knee is seen to be higher than the other, it may mean that one leg is shorter than the other.

Another way to measure the length of the legs is by using a tape measure or observing the level of the hip when placing the person on wooden platforms that measure 1 to 5 cm in height.

When the difference in length is small and changes are not seen using these strategies, only imaging exams such as panoramic X-rays and scanning, which consists of an x-ray with a ruler, may show dysmetria and the need for treatment.

How the treatment is done

The short leg is curable and for the person to be able to have both legs of the same length, they must carry out the treatment correctly. The sooner short leg syndrome is discovered and the sooner treatment is started, the greater the chances of a cure, especially if treatment is started in childhood.

When the difference between the length of the legs is equal to or less than 0.5 cm, there is no need for treatment, and it is common for all people to have this difference in adulthood. When the difference is greater than this, the treatment for short leg can be done with:

  • Physiotherapy sessions to release the fascia, stretch shortened muscles, correct scoliosis, and decrease pain and muscle weakness, for example;
  • Use of an insole that is placed under the heel of the shorter leg to equal the height of both legs. This insole should be placed inside the shoes when the shortening is up to 2 cm, but in larger height differences, custom-made shoes can be used;
  • Osteopathy and RPG sessions that are very effective in aligning the entire body and can cure the false short leg;
  • Surgery to correct the short leg, especially indicated in the case of a true short leg longer than 2 cm. The doctor may suggest yet another surgery called epiphysiodesis, which consists of stopping the growth of a healthy leg.

The orthopedist can indicate what the difference in height between the legs will be in adult life, even when evaluating children, using a calculation that can be done, which indicates what will be the difference in height in the future. Knowing this value is important because whenever a person is more than 5 cm tall in any stage of life, including in adulthood, there is an indication for surgery.

Possible complications

Having one leg shorter than the other can lead to the following health complications:

  • Difficulty walking and walking, always limping, which causes pain and discomfort;
  • Knee changes, which can be turned inward or outward;
  • Development of small fractures in the healthy leg, called stress fractures;
  • Scoliosis development, since the spine adopts a wrong position, deviating from its normal axis to one side, changing the position of each vertebra, as a way of compensating for the hip gap;
  • Development of arthritis or arthrosis in the joints, including sacroiliitis, which is the inflammation between the sacrum and the hip bone;
  • Pain in the back, shoulders, neck, headache, legs and feet can also be caused by the difference in length between the legs.

All of these complications can be related to each other, because as one of the legs is shorter, the body will have to adapt to this reality, adopting incorrect compensatory postures, which over time can cause pain and inflammation.

When the baby is born with one leg shorter than the other and when it is visible or when the doctor discovers the short leg during pregnancy, it may be another situation called Congenital Short Femur.