What Causes One Leg To Be Longer Than The Other?

Leg length discrepancy (LLD) is a condition in which one leg is shorter than the other. While this might seem like a minor anatomical difference, it can lead to various musculoskeletal problems and affect an individual’s quality of life. LLD can be caused by a variety of factors, both congenital and acquired, and understanding the underlying causes is essential for effective diagnosis and treatment.

In this article, we will delve into the various factors that can lead to one leg being longer than the other, explore the potential consequences, and discuss the available treatment options. For more readings, click on one leg longer than other

Congenital Factors


  • One of the primary causes of LLD is genetics. Some individuals inherit a predisposition to uneven leg lengths from their parents.
  • Specific genetic conditions, such as Marfan syndrome or Down syndrome, can contribute to LLD due to their impact on bone development and growth.

Developmental Abnormalities

  • In some cases, congenital developmental abnormalities can lead to one leg being longer than the other.
  • Conditions like hip dysplasia or congenital dislocation of the hip can disrupt normal skeletal growth, resulting in LLD.

Acquired Factors

Injury or Trauma

  • Perhaps the most common cause of acquired LLD is an injury or trauma to one leg.
  • Fractures, dislocations, and surgical procedures can all disrupt the natural growth pattern of the leg bones.


  • Severe infections affecting the growth plates of the long bones, such as osteomyelitis, can lead to uneven leg lengths.
  • The infection can damage the growth plates, affecting the normal bone growth.

Bone Diseases

  • Certain bone diseases, such as osteochondroma or osteosarcoma, can disrupt the normal growth of bones.
  • Tumours or benign growths on the bones can lead to LLD by affecting bone lengthening.

Neuromuscular Conditions

  • Conditions that affect muscle or nerve function can indirectly lead to LLD.
  • Conditions like cerebral palsy or polio can cause muscle weakness or imbalance, leading to changes in leg length over time.

Functional Leg Length Discrepancy

Muscular Imbalances

  • Muscular imbalances in the hips, pelvis, or lower back can create the illusion of LLD.
  • These imbalances can result from poor posture, overuse injuries, or prolonged sitting in awkward positions.

Joint Misalignment

  • Misalignment of the hip, knee, or ankle joints can cause functional LLD.
  • This type of LLD is temporary and can often be corrected through physical therapy and adjustments.

Consequences of Leg Length Discrepancy

Living with LLD can present several challenges and potential health issues, including:

Gait Abnormalities

  • LLD can cause an altered walking pattern, known as a gait abnormality. This can lead to additional stress on certain joints and muscles, potentially causing pain and discomfort.

Back Pain

  • One of the most common consequences of LLD is lower back pain. The uneven distribution of weight and the altered posture caused by LLD can strain the lower back.

Hip and Knee Problems

  • LLD can lead to hip and knee pain, as these joints are subjected to uneven forces during movement.

Muscle Imbalances

  • LLD can result in muscle imbalances in the legs and hips, which can further exacerbate the condition and lead to discomfort.

Compensatory Changes

  • To accommodate LLD, the body may make compensatory changes, such as tilting the pelvis or altering foot positioning. These changes can lead to discomfort and additional musculoskeletal problems.


If you suspect that you or someone you know has LLD, it is crucial to seek a proper diagnosis from a healthcare professional. Diagnosis typically involves:

Physical Examination

  • A physical examination by a healthcare provider will include measuring leg lengths and assessing gait abnormalities.

Imaging Studies

  • X-rays, CT scans, or MRI scans may be ordered to assess the bones and joints in detail.

Functional Assessment

  • In cases of functional LLD, a physical therapist may conduct a functional assessment to determine the underlying causes and develop a tailored treatment plan.

How Do You Test If One Leg Is Longer Than The Other?

Testing for leg length discrepancy (LLD) can be done through a series of simple measurements and observations. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you assess if one leg is longer than the other:

Gather Materials:

  • A measuring tape or ruler.
  • A flat, stable surface, like a table or floor.


  • Wear tight-fitting clothing or remove excess layers that might interfere with accurate measurements.

Lie Down on a Flat Surface:

  • Lie down on your back on a flat, stable surface. Make sure your head, spine, and legs are in a straight line.

Position Your Legs:

  • Position your legs so that they are fully extended and parallel to each other.

Identify Reference Points:

  • Identify two points you can consistently measure from. Common reference points include the anterior superior iliac spine (ASIS) and the medial malleolus (the inside ankle bone).

Measure Leg Lengths:

a. ASIS to Medial Malleolus:

  • With the measuring tape or ruler, measure from the ASIS (the bony prominence at the front of your pelvis) to the medial malleolus (the inside ankle bone) on one leg. This is typically the longer leg.

b. Repeat on the Other Leg:

  • Measure from the ASIS to the medial malleolus on the other leg.

Compare Measurements:

  • Note the measurements for each leg. The difference between the two measurements indicates the leg length discrepancy.

Standing Assessment (Optional):

  • For functional leg length discrepancy, which may be due to muscle imbalances or joint misalignment, you can observe while the person stands. Look for any apparent differences in leg lengths.

Consult a Professional:

  • If you suspect a significant leg length discrepancy or if it’s causing discomfort or problems with mobility, it’s crucial to consult a healthcare professional, such as an orthopedic specialist or physical therapist, for a more comprehensive assessment and guidance on appropriate treatment.

Keep in mind that while this method provides a general assessment, a healthcare professional will be able to conduct a more detailed examination, potentially including imaging studies like X-rays, to get a comprehensive understanding of the leg length discrepancy and its underlying causes.

Treatment Options

The choice of treatment for LLD depends on the severity of the condition, its underlying cause, and the individual’s age and overall health. Treatment options include:

Shoe Lifts or Orthotics

  • In cases of mild LLD, a shoe lift or orthotic device can be used to compensate for the height difference and improve gait.

Physical Therapy

  • Physical therapy is often recommended to address muscle imbalances, improve posture, and correct gait abnormalities.

Surgical Intervention

  • Surgical procedures are considered when LLD is severe or if other treatments have not provided adequate relief.
  • Surgical options may include epiphysiodesis (slowing the growth of the longer leg) or limb lengthening procedures.

Leg Shortening

  • In rare cases of significant LLD, the longer leg may be shortened to match the shorter one. This is typically reserved for extreme cases and is a complex surgical procedure.

Management of Underlying Conditions

  • If LLD is caused by an underlying medical condition, such as bone disease or infection, addressing the root cause is essential.


Leg length discrepancy is a condition that can arise from various congenital and acquired factors. While some cases may only result in mild discomfort, others can lead to significant musculoskeletal issues and affect a person’s quality of life. Early diagnosis and appropriate treatment are essential to manage LLD effectively.

If you suspect you have LLD or are experiencing related symptoms, consult a healthcare professional for a thorough evaluation. They can help determine the underlying cause and recommend the most suitable treatment option to address the condition and improve your overall well-being. Whether it’s through simple measures like shoe lifts or more complex interventions like surgery, managing LLD can lead to a healthier, more comfortable life.

admin Avatar


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Hi! I’m Annie!

A passionate home cook and food lover who loves nothing more than sharing my favourite recipes with the world.




Get exclusive access to recipes and cooking tips!

You’ll also love