Do legs cause low back pain?  They do when one is shorter than the other.  And about 1 out of 10 of us has a difference in leg length.  This is not the only cause but it is a commonly overlooked cause.

I had an elderly client named Bob.  He had lower back pain from the time he was a very young man.  He used to get his children to walk on his back to get the muscle spasms to go away.

Bob had surgery later in life.  That helped some but his leg length difference was so great that, in the xrays, it could be seen that the fusing hardware had broken.

His doctors never looked at his legs as a possible cause of his low back pain.  But when I did an assessment I could see there was quite a bit of difference.  I told Bob about John Wayne, the cowboy movie actor.  John Wayne had a leg length difference–and quite a large one.

Bob knew exactly what I meant.  He said, “My tailor told me that!  My tailor always had to hem the pant leg on one side!”  It was actually between 1-1/2″ and 2″.

That’s an easy way to tell if you have a large leg length difference–does one pant leg seem short or one seem long?  Is it on every pair of pants you own?

A recent article said that if the leg lengths are different by one inch or more it might strain your lower back. That is too generous.

Physicians and muscle specialists Janet Travell MD and David Simons MD said if the difference is 1/8″ or greater it will cause pain and dysfunction!

So if you have lower back pain this could be the cause.

First, try to find someone who can help you make that determination.  It could be a doctor with xrays to determine the length of your leg bones or it could be a neuromuscular massage therapist who can give a good estimate.  It could even be your mirror or a tailor.

Second, get your shoes built up on the short side.  You can make a fairly reasonable guess on how much (if you have to do this yourself) by standing on a magazine or writing tablet on the side you think is short.

Try different thicknesses of the magazine or add more magazines until it feels ‘right’ to you and you feel balanced.

This can be very time consuming but, in the end, well worth your effort if your low back pain is caused by the difference in the length of your legs.


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