If You have Knee Arthritis, Check your Leg Length!

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leg length discrepancy short leg knee arthritis

We’ve blogged many times in the past about how biomechanics are generally ignored by our medical system and how the mechanics of the body impacts things like arthritis. This issue of how subtle abnormalities of body movement can cause arthritis is discussed in more detail in our medical practice’s book, Orthopedics 2.0.  A study out last month again confirms that small differences in how the body moves can add up and cause very big problems. The study looked at more than 3,000 patients aged 50-79 years and found that when the length of their legs was off by more than 1 cm (about 1/3 of an inch), the risk of having knee arthritis in the shorter leg was about doubled when compared to patients with legs that were equal length, causing “short leg knee arthritis”. Why? The shorter leg takes slightly more impact on walking, so it makes sense that over years, millions of these tiny increases in impact can wear away more cartilage on that side. The solution? First, have your leg lengths measured by your doctor. If they’re off by more than 1 cm, than consider getting a heel lift on the shorter leg to make your legs more of an equal length. Also realize that for some patients who’ve had a difference in leg lengths for a long time, other parts of the body may have adapted to the unequal leg length. In these patients, we’ve noticed that correcting the leg length may cause a flare-up of pain in the back or neck. This is because the spine (note the picture above that shows how a leg length discrepancy puts a side bend in the spine) curves to adapt to the short leg. The upshot? Check your leg length and if you know you have a difference, get it corrected before years of being “off kilter” cause the rest of your body to adapt to the shorter leg!

Learn about Regenexx procedures for knee conditions.
Chris Centeno, MD is a specialist in regenerative medicine and the new field of Interventional Orthopedics. Centeno pioneered orthopedic stem cell procedures in 2005 and is responsible for a large amount of the published research on stem cell use for orthopedic applications. View Profile

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NOTE: This blog post provides general information to help the reader better understand regenerative medicine, musculoskeletal health, and related subjects. All content provided in this blog, website, or any linked materials, including text, graphics, images, patient profiles, outcomes, and information, are not intended and should not be considered or used as a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Please always consult with a professional and certified healthcare provider to discuss if a treatment is right for you.

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