Can a chiropractor fix an apparent short leg?

Can a chiropractor fix an apparent short leg?

Hello Dr. B

I have read in some of your answers to people with a short leg that you recommend a heel lift for that specific shoe. I have worn orthotic shoes with a quarter inch lift which does not help the pain of late onset scoliosis which seems to be caused by the shifting of the bones due to the short leg.

I am now using a manual wheelchair as I was told that I have a progressive and damaging form of arthritis in my feet. This arthritis has caused me to use a manual wheelchair as a means of being able to walk again. I do not use the foot rests but walk it with my legs as my problems are weight bearing; this way I do have some of my independence back as well as exercise.

My problems began when I was forty two I am now 59 but the scoliosis is still painful as to lean my back into any chair and cannot sleep in a regular bed as all of the rib joints settle and then painfully move out of the settled position.

My question is can the body adjust to these new bone changes that seem to be caused by the short leg or could you actually correct this problem by having chiropractic treatments on the normal side only as to cause the bones to become even again. I know young people use a brace but I have heard that with older people you have to have surgery which for me I would not want to go through as I may be worse off than I am.

I really appreciate this site and thank you for all of the updated emails I save the ones that I may need to know in the future.


Hello Vickie,
I'm afraid I don't have a direct answer to your question; I don't really understand your "late onset scoliosis".

Scoliosis is normally a condition that begins in childhood; the only way that I can see it starting in middle age is if you were to have trauma, with perhaps a compression fracture. You make no mention of that.

I suspect your scoliosis was always there, only not detected.

What type of "progressive and damaging" arthritis do you have in the feet. Presumably it could be in the spine too.

A true "anatomical" short leg cannot be "fixed" by a chiropractor, or anyone else for that matter; an orthotic is the solution, but making the correct lift in the shoe is a nightmare, a real art, and may often not help, or worsen things.

Sometimes it should be under the heel only, in other cases the whole shoe. Exactly how much is extremely difficult to determine.

Sometimes a lift may help level the pelvis, but increase the scoliosis.

An "apparent" short leg is caused by a subluxation in the pelvis, and possibly in the spine also, causing an apparent change in the leg length whilst lying down. The can be "fixed" by the correct adjustments of the pelvis, but it's likely to return when you slip, or bend, or something happens.

You can have an anatomical and an apparent short leg, and they can confusingly be on opposite sides. For example, when standing you have say a quarter inch anatomical short leg on the leg; by lying down it may appear to be short on the right.

All in all it's a complex business taking care, thought and attention to detail by your chiropractor. It's unlikely to be something that can be "cured". Life long care is the solution, but a conscientiously done set of exercises, and acceptance that some things shouldn't be done.

Your case is all the more complex because of your arthritis; it must be very serious if you are unable to walk, and I would assume is in your back as well. Do you have a Charcot foot? What is the name given to this arthritis?

I fear this hasn't really been a satisfactory answer to your question; perhaps it contributes something.

Dr B

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Mar 21, 2016
Short leg caused by Scoliosis
by: Vickie

Thank you Dr. B for your quick response.

I am Vickie who asked the above question. In answer to yours, my arthritis is osteo and psoriatic. I am not bound to the wheelchair but use it as a mobility aide. I do walk at times in my home.

The reason I thought that my scoliosis was caused by the short leg was another article on this site titled Scoliosis - "80 Treatments in a Year?" A portion of your answer states; did he make any comment about a short leg causing your scoliosis? This is why I thought that perhaps that was the cause of my problem as this awful pain did not begin until I was told about the short leg and that may be why the arthritis is worse on the right side. Perhaps the shifting of the bones was causing all of the pain and inflammation that was so high critical to lower quickly. Thank you Vickie.

Hello Vickie,
Important and frankly difficult to establish is whether the psoriatic arthritis is the cause of your pain, or perhaps what's known as an "incidental finding". True, you have it, but it's not the cause of the problems.

Only a careful and thorough examination can answer the question. And even then there may be doubt.

Plenty of people get these pains, but don't have arthritis; could it be that you have psoriasis but it's really irrelevant? It's not something I could answer.

If we continue this, please write from a computer; correcting grammar is not something I love!

Dr B

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Interesting challenges of the day

1. Mr S is a 76 year old man with neck pain of some 9 months duration. Luckily, most of the discomfort is upper cervical which is only rarely arthritic; his lower cervical spine is a degenerative mess that I have left alone. After seven treatments his pain and stiffness is 50 percent better, and he is happy in the circumstances. He can sleep through the night now and that makes a huge difference.

2. Mr P is 32 year old man with very severe lower back pain radiating to the big toe which is 30 percent numb. He had an episode three weeks ago, took anti-inflammatories and was soon better as is typical of the medial disc herniation. But before it healed, after a trivia it came roaring back, much worse. The characteristic crossed sign was evident; sitting in a chair, straightening the right leg provoked severe left back pain and tingling in the leg. He is doing well.

3. Severe lower back pain is scary; just ask Mrs P. Just watching her get out of the car I she was in trouble; she had a slipped disc at L4 making her lean towards the opposite side; luckily she had no pain in the leg. Despite family pressure that this was far too severe for a chiropractor, she persevered. Within five days she was standing upright, and after two weeks almost pain-free. 

Despite a hectic job, she wisely took my advice and stayed home for what I call exercising bed rest.

4. Mr S has had lower back, groin and back of thigh and calf pain for fourth months.

He has a pincer deformity in the hip causing the stabs in the groin, and a degenerative facet causing the sciatica. Both are responding well to chiropractic and he is well pleased; sixty-five percent better after three treatments.

5. Mr T is a wise man; he has taken a warning TIA seriously and has lost 15 pounds, and has at least as much again to lose. A change to a low starch diet and half hour daily stroll has made the difference; but the walking is making his foot and back miserable. The expensive orthotic is hopeless; luckily his hips and back are fine, but he needs a simple heel lift; he has a short leg.

6. I too have had serious lower back issues, luckily fixed by my own chiropractor; so I too have to do my exercises, take care when lifting supers full of honey, gardening and using the chainsaw. Regaining the function of your spine is just as important as the pain.

7. My own granddaughter, only 7 is hypermobile giving her pelvic, knee and ankle issues. X-rays show a mildly dysplastic hip. Years ago we would have called it growing pains. She too regularly needs chiropractic care and luckily responds well. Increased range of motion is more difficult than too stiff in my opinion. Our care is for kids too.

8. This 65-year old lady is a serious gardener; every day she is bending, lifting and digging for 2 to 3 hours a day. It regularly catches her in the sacroiliac joint, so she has a treatment once a month that sorts it out. She does her lower back exercises faithfully.

9. This 88-year old lady is an inspiration; every day she is busy in the community. With a nasty scoliosis she manages very well with a chiropractic adjustment every six weeks and exercises faithfully done. 

10. Mr X is a 71-year old retired man who wants to continue with maintenance care every six to eight weeks; he had suffered from two years of lower back pain when he first came a few months ago. He has no discomfort now after 8 chiropractic treatments, but is aware that danger lurks.

11. Mrs C has been having severe headaches, and taking a lot of analgesics. It is a non-complicated upper cervical facet syndrome, and she is doing well.

12. Mr D is a 38-year old year man with chronic shoulder pain after a rotator cuff tear playing cricket. It responded well to treatment, but he knows he must do his exercises every day; for two years he could not sleep on that shoulder.

13. Mr D, a 71-year old man, has a severe ache in the shoulder and midback since working above his head. Trapped nerve tests are negative but he has advanced degenerative joints of Luschka; after just two treatments he is 50 percent better. Can we reach 90?

And so the day goes; chiropractors should not be treating the elderly most medical sites state but that is so much bunkum.

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