The effect of leg length on back pain: a classic test
PainSci summary of Grundy 1984?This page is one of thousands in the PainScience.com bibliography. It is not a general article: it is focussed 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. ★★★★☆?4-star ratings are for bigger/better studies and reviews published in more prestigious journals, with only quibbles. Ratings are a highly subjective opinion, and subject to revision at any time. If you think this paper has been incorrectly rated, please let me know.
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.
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.
- “Relationship between mechanical factors and incidence of low back pain,” an article in Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy, 2002.
- “Leg-length discrepancy is associated with low back pain among those who must stand while working,” an article in BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders, 2015.
These seven articles on PainScience.com cite Grundy 1984 as a source:
- PS Trigger Points & Myofascial Pain Syndrome — A guide to the unfinished science of muscle pain, with reviews of every theory and self-treatment and therapy option
- PS Does Posture Correction Matter? — Posture correction strategies and exercises … and some reasons not to care or bother
- PS Save Yourself from IT Band Syndrome! — All your treatment options for Iliotibial Band Syndrome reviewed in great detail, with clear explanations of recent scientific research supporting every key point
- PS Save Yourself from Low Back Pain! — Low back pain myths debunked and all your treatment options reviewed
- PS The Not-So-Humble Healer — Cocky theories about the cause of pain are waaaay too common in massage, chiropractic, and physical therapy
- PS Your Back Is Not Out of Alignment — Debunking the obsession with alignment, posture, and other biomechanical bogeymen as major causes of pain
- PS Reading Guide for Professionals — What’s on PainScience.com for therapists and doctors?