Short Right Leg Syndrome (SRLS) is a condition that most commonly affects the upper body through mild Scoliosis and the lower limbs through Lumbro-Sacral and Hip dysfunction. Physical activity aggravates lower limb symptoms and relieves upper body symptoms. Hence, during the early years of my practice where a large proportion of the case load was sports oriented, it lead to a focus on lower limb symptoms.
My early experience from 1979 to 1992 as a patient and student of Traditional Chinese Medicine and martial arts under Professor Lun Wong OAM, 9th dan Tang So Do, gave me palpable insights to the philosophy of Chi. The description "Chronic hip rotation binding the SIJ causing an energetic block with a consequent effect down the backline of the lower limb." was not taught in basic training for the Remedial Diploma at Swinburne University. This concept is not known in the therapeutic community. In fact, Western practitioners base their physical therapy largely on bio-mechanical and neurological principles. Where there is no obvious bio-mechanical or neurological link, they are unable to connect the dots joining an acute case of Plantar Fasciitis in the heel with a minor postural anomaly at the Hip. Chi not being in their vocabulary nor a measurable scientific unit, leaves them quite literally blind to the phenomena. They fall back on explanations of loading and overuse which is not the full story and, as a result, achieve poor treatment outcomes.
Some readers will be sceptical of energy concepts and that is OK. Several times now highly qualified practitioners in Western physical therapy have stated they do not “believe” in energetic principles and the effects I describe. I am quite surprised these science based practitioners resort to belief and dismiss my reports without applying scientific method to test the claims. I do not ask others to “believe” an unproven or nebulous philosophy...my reports are based on numerous first hand observations of the condition using basic hip posture and leg length assessment methods, and palpation skills of muscle tone through the back line of the limb. Regardless of the underlying reason chosen to support the observed effects, the observations still hold true.
At Swinburne University we discussed conditions such as Piriformis Syndrome, Sciatica, Hamstring and Achilles issues, Compartment Syndrome and Plantar Fasciitis. There was no expectation of cure. No treatment plan leading to resolution of the condition was offered. I do have a client now in his 70’s who successively suffered all of the above conditions in his left leg over a twenty year period culminating in both a torn Hamstring and a ruptured Achilles. He had chronic hip rotation and not once did any of the doctors or therapists consulted over that time suggest it might have anything to do with his troubles. These included a General Practitioner, Surgeon, Physiotherapist, Podiatrist, Chiropractor and Remedial Massage Therapist.
While I eventually began to have some success treating conditions of this nature combining principles from both East and West, it remained a mystery to me why hip posture was so haphazard...one hip in high range anterior rotation and other other level...until, ten years into my practice, it was suggested a high proportion of clients present with a short right leg. Sceptically, I began examining this possibility and confirmed the observation. It proves to be the primary mechanism underlying the hip anomaly I describe. Hip rotation is an anatomical adjustment functionally pulling up the longer leg, reducing apparent leg length difference, reducing pelvic tilt so that we feel more comfortable standing.
The effect of Scoliosis on the upper body has been studied extensively. I was taught leg length differences less than 10mm were disregarded by therapists because the body will compensate for it. However, I would now argue with this statement. It cannot be disregarded. Yes, the body compensates but the underlying cause SRLS is more pervasive and the symptomatic effect even a minor leg length difference can have is wider ranging and more debilitating than therapists and the public realise. Many people receive regular treatment giving only temporary relief for upperback, neck and shoulder aches and pains, headache or suffering even more serious vertebral disk bulges due to mild scoliosis resulting from SRLS, not to mention the associated lower limb issues. Frequently these people have never been told they have a short leg. Within limits, it is a treatable condition. Also too, it is suggested the general well being of the population as a whole might be improved and injury avoided if screening for SRLS was carried out during juvenile years.