Short leg sciatica is a common diagnosis mostly made by chiropractors. Having a short leg means different things to different people. I have seen some incredibly obvious cases where one leg is up to a foot shorter than the other.
In many diagnosed patients, the leg is only slightly off, creating what I deem to be another of the many structurally-based sciatica scapegoats. There is also the ongoing controversy involving structural short leg versus functional short leg syndrome.
exploratory article will detail the incidence of sciatic nerve pain
which may be linked to functional or anatomical short leg syndrome.
The scope of this article focuses on patients who have been diagnosed with a minor difference in leg length, of less than a few inches, and those with functional short leg syndrome. These are the people who are often diagnosed with suffering from sciatica due to the leg length discrepancy, when all along there is another explanation for the pain. Ironically, severe and noticeable leg length differences are only sometimes blamed for pain, since a diverse sampling of these conditions are asymptomatic or easily treated with orthotics.
It is usually the leg length discrepancies involving an inch or less difference that are diagnosed as the source of chronic pain and neurological symptoms, as well as patients who demonstrate variable functional short leg.
I was diagnosed with the functional form of this condition regularly by my chiropractors and was always told that my back refused to hold an adjustment. As time passed, I slowly learned that this diagnosis was bogus in the majority of patients, since people are prone to experience small differences in leg length regularly and even have the longer leg switch from side to side.
It all came to a head for me one day when I went to my chiropractor and had an adjustment for what was diagnosed as a difference in leg length. Within a few moments and without getting up off the table, another of the chiropractors in the office came in to see me, not knowing that I was just adjusted and deemed corrected by the first doctor. He checked my leg length and found it to be 3” off and I was shocked. At this point I did my own research and realized that this may be the biggest scam in the back pain treatment industry.
If you are treated regularly for functional differences in leg length, do not expect to ever finish therapy. Your condition will never change and your legs will continue to be a potential source of concern. On the other hand, you can simply research this condition for yourself and understand how functional leg discrepancy is used to justify years of unneeded care, especially by complementary caregivers. This was always one of my biggest problems with chiropractic.
Alternately, you can ignore the research and continue to argue that a variable difference in leg length is responsible for every evil in the world. You can spend all your time, energy and money pursuing treatment, even though I can guarantee you will never be cured. This does not seem like a prudent plan, from any point of view.
This article comes on strong, and for good reason. There is an obvious problem with the way some care providers explain and diagnose functional short leg syndrome. I certainly do not mean to imply that all cases are incorrectly diagnosed, since some rare patients actually do have verifiable soft tissue pathologies which can create painful purely functional short leg. Others might have minor structural short leg and also demonstrate atypical issues which can make their conditions symptomatic. However, these are the gross exceptions to the rule.
The bottom line here is that I hope to provide some ideas for research for patients who have endured this diagnosis for an extended time frame and have never found relief. In many of theses cases, the diagnosis may be nothing more than smoke and mirrors and the treatment purchased may be completely unneeded. A good way to find out if this applies to you is to seek a few professional opinions and ask each different type of physician what they think of the previous provider's diagnostic findings.