One Leg Shorter Than Other

Your chiropractor tells you you have one leg shorter than the other. She talks to you about a structural (anatomical) short leg compared to a functional one. You're not sure what she means. Let's explain the difference.

Not So Uncommon

Well, a short leg is rather common. An article in 2005 by Gary A Knutson published in Chiropractic & Osteopathy reports that 90% of the population has a short leg.

Most people with a short leg don't even know it. And most people won't even feel it.

However, a lot of people with lower back pain do have a short leg or what appears to be a short leg.

There are basically two types of short legs:

  1. Anatomical.
  2. Functional.
Short Leg Check

Unreliable Method for Short Leg Check

Anatomical Short Leg

The first one is caused by an actual true shortness. It should not be a surprise that a leg can be short. We are definitely not created symmetrical.

One foot is usually larger, one hand is bigger, our left side of our face is shaped different than the right side. Our ribcage is not symmetrical nor are our muscles the same comparing one side to the other. 

So, why would you be surprised to find out that perhaps you have one leg shorter that the other?

What causes a true short leg? Some known causes are:

  • Bone diseases.
  • Fractures.
  • Surgery.

There are also unknown causes. Some theories are:

  • It is the result of one leg having a better blood supply during growth.
  • It is the result of one leg having a better nerve supply during growth and development.
  • It is the result of hereditary or genetic factors.
  • It is the result of unequal external forces due to one foot being more pronated or flatter causing greater bone development during the growth stage.

Functional Short Leg

The second type of leg shortness is functional. As far as what causes a functional short leg that is a little bit easier to figure out.

It can be from:

  • One foot being flatter than the other.
  • One foot more pronated than the other.
  • Muscle spasm.
  • A combination of two or more of the above.


The treatment approach should be correction of any shortness whether actual or apparent.

You correct a true or actual short leg with a heel lift if the body is able to accept it. This is best determined by your chiropractor.

You correct a functional short leg by correcting for flat feet, pronation, treating muscle spasm, and balancing pelvic misalignment.

The best way to assess a short leg is with proper x-ray analysis by a chiropractor. Most chiropractors are trained to evaluate a short leg with visual and x-ray analysis and then treat appropriately.

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