A leg-length discrepancy occurs when one leg is shorter than the other leg. The difference can range from a fraction of an inch to several inches.

Some children are born with limb differences that cause legs to grow at different rates. Other limb-length discrepancies may occur due to an injury or other conditions. Injuries and conditions include fractures, bone infections and bone cysts.

Leg limb-length discrepancies are more likely to affect a child’s daily activities than arm-length discrepancies. It may change their posture or walking patterns. Leg limb-length discrepancies may also lead to other problems. These problems include scoliosis and problems with the hip, knee and/or ankle.

There are two types of limb-length discrepancies. Structural discrepancies occur when a bone in one limb is shorter than the same bone in the other limb. Functional discrepancies occur when joint contracture throws off limb symmetry.

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What are the signs and symptoms of a leg limb-length discrepancy??

The signs of a leg-length discrepancy vary. It depends on the cause and difference in length. Signs and symptoms may include:

  • One leg that is shorter than the other; this is not always noticeable or obvious
  • Walking problems (e.g., limping or toe-walking)
  • Pain in the back, hip, knee or ankle
  • Problems with posture
  • Knee is chronically hyper-extended on the short side and flexed on the long side

What causes a leg limb-length discrepancy?

There are several causes of leg-length discrepancies. Some limb-length discrepancies are congenital (present at birth) and others are illness-related.


  • Child’s leg did not develop fully during pregnancy (no known cause)
  • Child is born with a problem that changes the alignment of their hips (e.g., coxa vara or developmental hip dislocation)


  • Complex fracture that does not heal correctly
  • Damage to the growth plate due to injury or bone infection
  • Bone tumors or bone cysts
  • Cerebral palsy and other neuromuscular disorders

How is a leg limb-length discrepancy diagnosed?

  • Physical exam
  • X-rays
  • Additional testing if necessary
    • Genetic testing
    • Testing of other parts of the body if a medical condition is suspected

How is a leg limb-length discrepancy treated?

Treatment for a leg limb-length discrepancy depends on the cause and extent of your child’s condition. There are several non-surgical and surgical treatments options to treat leg limb-length discrepancies:

  • Physical therapy
  • Occupational therapy
  • Assistive or adaptive devices
  • Shoe lifts
  • Surgery to slow down or stop growth of the longer limb
  • Gradual lengthening of the shorter limb
  • Shortening of the longer limb

Connecticut Children’s is equipped with state-of-the-art limb lengthening and limb modification technologies. Doctors at Connecticut Children’s can determine the right treatment plan for your child’s condition.