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Arthritis Study Finds Those With A Short Leg Have An Increased Risk of Osteoarthritis

Posted Jun 02 2009 4:34pm

San Francisco Chiropractor and Chronic Back Pain Doctor Comments:

Osteoarthritis, often referred to as the "abnormal wear and tear" form of arthritis (vs. rheumatoid arthritis which an autoimmune disease) effects over 21 million people in the U.S. A recent study   has shown that as little as a 2 centimeter difference in leg length (4/5 inch) can dramatically increase your chances of developing osteoarthritis in the hip and knee. And, patients with a short leg are more prone to severe osteoarthritis. Well, I must say, this is not a ground breaking revelation. Chiropractors have been addressing this issue for 50 years. It only makes sense that our legs should be the same length. The earths gravity is a vertical constant (force), and for the most part ground surfaces that we walk on are flat. Therefore, if one leg is shorter than the other it will mean that the body has to compensate. This will create abnormal stresses on the joints, resulting in abnormal wear and tear (osteoarthritis). This is why most chiropractors will do a leg length check when they perform your physical exam. Then your chiropractor will measure the height of your femur heads on x-ray to double check. If a leg is found to be over 2 centimeters shorter than the other, orthotics must be considered with a heel lift on the short leg side.  The earlier this is done the better. But, at the same time we must be careful not to act too soon. It is also possible that what appears to be an anatomical short leg at first is not actually a short leg. Pelvic or sacral rotations or instabilities. Lumbar or even cervical subluxations. Even muscle spasms from a back strain can cause a short leg. Your chiropractor knows all this and will make decisions based on what is best for you. If a heel lift is prescribed and there really is no need for it, it can cause a lot of problems. It's best to be sure there really is a short leg. I like to do some treatment first, get the inflammation down, reduce the muscle spasms, then re-xray to make sure before prescribing a heel lift. Then, if I am sure someone needs a lift, we start out at about one fourth of the height we need and work our way up to the full height over a period of a few months. This acclamation process can be very uncomfortable for some. But, if done right it can save a lot of abnormal wear and tear (osteoarthritis) as well as foot, knee, hip and back pain. If you would like more information or think you might have a short leg and want to be checked, simply call 415-392-2225 and ask for Mari.    

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