What Causes Short Leg Syndrome?

Short Leg Syndrome and Low Back Pain

A “short leg” is a common sign of a that comes from a problem in your upper neck. Low back pain is often the symptom, but not the cause. Clear Chiropractic is an upper cervical specialist practice in Spokane, Washington that is a natural alternative for helping people with low back pain.

What does it mean if you have a “short leg?”

If you’ve ever been to a massage therapist, chiropractor of physical therapist, you may have been told that you have a short leg.

There are a few signs you might notice yourself that you have a “short leg:”

  • Chronic injuries down one side of your body
  • Uneven shoe wear (especially runners)
  • Your pants are uneven (especially if you visit a tailor!)
  • Shifting your hips side-to-side when you stand upright
  • Constant tension in one of your shoulder blades

People are often told that a short leg comes from problem with your hips (e.g., “twisted pelvis”), and that by correcting imbalances in your low back that it balances your legs. It makes sense.

However, many people are also told that the short leg comes back every time you go for an appointment. If so, you might be wondering what is actually going on!

In this article, I want to clarify the confusion. I also want to show how the actual problem may not be coming from your low back at all, but instead from your neck, and how a different type of treatment can provide long-term changes, relief and stability for your body.


There are Two Types of “Short Legs”

From the research, we know that almost every single human being has an anatomically short leg. It is a condition known as anisomelia.

The reason this happens is because of physical injuries that happen when we are little kids. Any number of bumps, scrapes and bruises can cause microscopic damage to our bones and muscles. As a result, one leg commonly grows slightly longer than the opposite side.

Typically, it is not until an imbalance exceeds 6mm (1/4”) that we begin to experience problems with our muscles and joints.

  • In the same breath, your body has an innate intelligence that works to adapt for these small imbalances.
  • One hip bone grows slightly higher to accommodate for the short leg.
  • Your sacrum (tailbone) grows thicker on one side to maintain the balance of your spine.
  • Your feet shift your center of gravity to balance your body.

Our point here is that although almost everyone has a short leg, your legs should appear balanced (within 3mm or 1/8”) when you lie down or stand upright.


Short Leg Syndrome and Body Imbalance

This this usually means when people have a “short leg” is that there is neuromuscular tension through their body that is causing the illusion of a short leg. Another term to describe this phenomenon is a “contracted” or “reactive leg.”

In other words, it is a neuromuscular reflex that your brain (itself) produces. The million dollar question is “Why?”

We know from research that injuries to the spine (whether your neck or shoulders or low back) involve a response known as the vestibulospinal reflex. In brief, small injuries that affect the function and mobility of your spine disrupt the normal balance position of your brain. As a result, your brain produces postural changes from your neck all the way down to your feet to balance out the system and to keep your head upright.

When you lie down, this reflex can produce the appearance of a “short leg.”

When you stand upright, this reflex can also produce posture asymmetries:

Over time, these imbalances can cause a number of health problems:

In this way, “bad posture” is not always a matter of laziness. Your posture is an outer reflection of the health and function of your inner body.

What does it mean if my “Short Leg” keeps coming back?

As we mentioned earlier, people are often told that a short leg comes from their low back or a twisted pelvis. However, the issue is not always so simple.

Especially if you are seeing a chiropractor or physical therapist regularly (e.g., once every week or two), but are continuously told you are “out of alignment” – or if you feel wonderful after seeing your massage therapist but find that your muscles tighten up within a few days (or even hours) after your session –  this is a sign that something else is going on.

Your body heals itself! This also means that if your problems keep coming back every few days, the pain you feel is likely coming from somewhere else in your body.

In this way, one of the most important but often forgotten parts of your body that causes tight muscles and a “short leg” is actually your neck.

Upper Cervical Care – A Different Approach

Upper cervical care is a different approach to healthcare that treats not just where you feel pain in your body, but addresses the root cause.

Many people with low back pain, hip pain and other problems in their lower body actually have a problem stemming from an old injury in their neck. Remember the vestibulospinal reflex? Your brain produces compensations all the way down your spine in order to keep your head balanced. If you have a problem in your neck, this can be one of the reasons why your tight muscles and short leg continue to appear.

The Blair technique is a gentle, specialist approach to upper cervical care that does not involve any stretching, twisting or neck cracking. The procedures involves a series of tests to identify if the cause of your symptoms comes from your neck. If so, we perform an advanced series of diagnostic scans (either digital articular X-rays or CBCT) to find the exact source of the problem. By performing a specific correction that is designed just for you, we are able to restore the normal motion and function through your neck, which gives your body the opportunity to untwist itself from the top of your head all the way down to your feet.

Even if you have tried physical therapy, massage and generalist chiropractic before, the Blair technique is different. If you are looking for a chiropractor in Spokane, visit our home page more information. To schedule a new patient appointment with our Mead (north Spokane) or South Hill offices, complete a new patient request form here or call us direct at 509-315-8166.