Leg Length Discrepancy | Symptoms and Causes

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What are the symptoms of leg length discrepancy?

The symptoms of a leg length discrepancy vary widely from child to child based on the difference in leg length and the cause of the condition.

Some common symptoms include:

  • one leg that is shorter than the other (this is not always obvious)
  • problems with posture, such as a tilting shoulder
  • walking problems, such as limping or toe-walking
  • a knee that's chronically hyperextended on the short side and flexed on the long side
  • pain in the back, hip, knee or ankle

What are the causes of leg length discrepancy?

Structural leg length discrepancies occur when a child is born with legs that are of unequal length or has bowed tibias (shin bones). In most cases, there is no known cause for this.

Functional leg length discrepancy can occur when a child is born with a problem that alters alignment of the hips, such as coxa vara and developmental dislocation of the hip.

Other causes of leg length discrepancy may include:

  • A fracture or other injury: an injury to the bone can slow down its growth, while the bone in the other leg continues to grow normally. Some fractures can also lead to overgrowth of bone during the healing process — this is common with injuries to the thighbone.
  • Osteomyelitis or other diseases of the bone: this can damage the growth plate in the bone, causing a discrepancy that occurs gradually over time.
  • Bone tumors and their treatments can affect bone growth.
  • Cerebral palsy and other neuromuscular problems: these conditions can cause problems with alignment and posture, possibly leading to a functional discrepancy.

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