Can muscular imbalance cause leg length discrepancy?

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I have felt that my right leg is longer than my left leg ever since I did PT for a lower back injury. When standing fully upright, my left leg barely touches the ground. I never really feel pain if anything, just tightness in hip/lower right back. I am wondering if it is a muscular imbalance.

Disclaimer: Please note, this reply is for informational purposes only. It’s not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician, physical therapist, or other qualified health provider with a medical condition.

Things to Know

  • In most cases, the body can compensate for small differences in leg length.
  • In general, various factors can impact functional leg length, including pain, posture, muscle tone, and joint function.
  • Functional leg length discrepancy can often be improved through targeted exercises and therapies.

Thank you for your question. Without the ability to perform an individualized examination, we are unable to provide you with direct advice regarding your specific situation. 

The phenomenon of one leg seeming longer than the other can be a perplexing and often concerning experience. While true leg length discrepancy is due to an anatomical difference in the length of the bones in your legs, functional leg length discrepancy can be traced back to a range of causes and can often be improved through targeted exercise and therapies.

Differences in leg length can occur from bony injury or through altered growth patterns over time. In most cases, the body can compensate for small differences in leg length, and some studies suggest that it’s actually more common to have a leg length difference than it is to have legs that are equal in length. Due to the multiple factors that can cause leg length differences, it is best to seek out a physical therapist for an evaluation and treatment as needed. 

In general, factors that can impact functional leg length including pain, posture, muscle tone, muscular balance and joint function. 

Your previous lower back injury may have led to a muscle imbalance due to changes in posture, strength, range of motion and prolonged compensatory movements. The resulting muscular imbalance could be contributing to the changes in your functional leg length as it relates to your muscle recruitment patterns affecting the alignment and support of your hips and spine. Often, muscular imbalances cause tightness and discomfort. Consequently, this may cause your left leg to bear less weight and barely touch the ground when standing upright.

To address this issue, targeted exercises prescribed by a physical therapist or certified trainer can be immensely beneficial. Strengthening the weaker muscles and stretching the overactive ones can help restore balance, correct alignment, and alleviate tightness and discomfort in the hip and lower back area.

In addition to exercise, maintaining good posture and body mechanics throughout daily activities can also contribute to better alignment and reduce the strain on your muscles. Being mindful of how you stand, sit, and move can make a significant difference in alleviating the sensation of leg length discrepancy.

However, it’s important to consult a physical therapist to determine the exact cause of your leg length sensation and rule out any potential underlying issues. They can conduct a thorough evaluation to provide a comprehensive diagnosis and create a tailored treatment plan.

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