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The effect of leg length on back pain: a classic test

updated

Tags: back pain, classics, biomechanics, hip, etiology, orthotics, manual therapy, spinal adjustment, pain problems, spine, pro, foot, leg, limbs, self-treatment, treatment, devices

Eight articles on PainSci cite Grundy 1984: (1) The Complete Guide to Trigger Points & Myofascial Pain(2) Does Posture Correction Matter?(3) The Complete Guide to IT Band Syndrome(4) Complete Guide to Low Back Pain(5) The Not-So-Humble Healer(6) Are Orthotics Worth It?(7) Your Back Is Not Out of Alignment(8) Reading Guide for Professionals

PainSci summary of Grundy 1984: ?This page is one of thousands in the PainScience.com bibliography. It is not a general article: it is focused on a single scientific paper, and it may provide only just enough context for the summary to make sense. Links to other papers and more general information are provided at the bottom of the page, as often as possible.

This classic, elegant experiment found no connection between leg length and back pain. Like most of the really good science experiments, it has that MythBusters attitude: “why don’t we just check that assumption?” Researchers measured leg lengths, looking for differences in “lower limb length and other disproportion at or around the sacroiliac joints” and found no association with low back pain. “Chronic back pain is thus unlikely to be part of the short-leg syndrome.” Other studies since have backed this up, but this simple old paper remains a favourite.

~ Paul Ingraham

original abstract Abstracts here may not perfectly match originals, for a variety of technical and practical reasons. Some abstacts are truncated for my purposes here, if they are particularly long-winded and unhelpful. I occasionally add clarifying notes. And I make some minor corrections.

In a case-control study, in which a specially designed questionnaire and a ‘locating jig’ were used to investigate the association between difference in lower limb length and other disproportion at or around the sacroiliac joints and the existence of chronic low back pain, no association was found. Chronic back pain is thus unlikely to be part of the short-leg syndrome.

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