Have you been told you have a leg length discrepancy? Have your legs ever been measured with a tape measure? The answer to this second question is often no.
We have come across providers that prescribe heel lifts often. Some justify this is the answer for leg length differences, low back pain, sacroiliac (SI) joint dysfunctions, etc. This may be a temporary solution but it does put several of your body mechanics at a disadvantage.
Your leg length can be affected by changes in soft tissue, sacroiliac joints, lumbar spine, the presence of scoliosis, or congenital hip conditions. It is rare that providers look at all of these factors before fitting you for a heel lift, but it never fails to affect the chain all the way up.
While heels lifts may provide short-term relief for some people but we also know that the research demonstrates significant long-term effects on biomechanics and ground force reactions. Effects of heel lifts and lower limb biomechanics and muscle function: a systematic review (Rabusin, et al. 2019) states that less ankle dorsiflexion is achieved, gait (swing phase) changes, Achilles tendon shortens, and there’s an increase in medial gastrocnemius muscle activation with use heel lifts.
If you have been prescribed a heel lift, you may want to ask why and if there is another way to address your leg length “discrepancy” or other symptoms.
About the author:
Dr. Jessica Volciak, PT, DPT, ATC, is an orthopedic physical therapist practicing in the outpatient, private practice setting. A 2019 graduate of Slippery Rock University. Dr. Volciak has a background in athletic training and a passion for athletics, having been a dancer through college. Dr. Volciak is participating in a post-doctoral mentorship at Anchor Wellness in Cincinnati, OH under Dr. Sarah Crawford, PT, DPT, COMT, CMTPT. Dr. Volciak is also pursuing post-graduate training in orthopedic manual therapy and trigger point dry needling. She is passionate about preventative care and health promotion. Dr. Volciak can be reached at email@example.com