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One leg shorter than the other

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Joined: 09 May 2020
Posts: 3
Location: Scotland

PostPosted: Mon May 18, 2020 12:24 am    Post subject: One leg shorter than the other Reply with quote

I have a student, who has one leg shorter than the other. She opened up about this during her first yin yoga session and perhaps because I was asking her to pay attention to what she was feeling in her body. At the moment I teach few people online (only friends and for free) to gain teaching experience.
The conversation started when she was in half butterfly folding over one leg and described tugging of her "dodgy" tailbone. So I enquired further. She said she had some imbalance there and went onto tell me the story:
This had been only discovered a few years ago after her arrival in the UK. Previously she had surgery to fuse her big toe joints due to arthritis from skiing. Before arriving in the UK, she was living in Switzerland where she was fitted with shoe insoles to help her feet (due to the surgery). The difference in leg length was discovered when she arrived in the UK and needed replacement insoles. So she was also given a wedge to boost the shorter leg....
She went to say, that since using this wedge, she felt quite off-kilter in her posture and gait and said she couldn't run (anymore). She actually found the tugging in half butterfly "a good sensation", albeit different between the two sides. This came as no surprise and I did reassure her, that differences in sensation are to be expected as none of us are truly symmetrical.
Is there a possibility, that in making her legs "equal" by means of a wedge, has thrown her pelvis and tailbone out of neutral? And how should she proceed with wearing / not wearing this wedge? I would be interested to check, if she wants to try walking without and see if that makes her feel more balanced. But am I wrong? I definitely don't want to cause harm, but it seems that the wedge could be a cause.

Any advice for further reading for myself and my friend will be gratefully appreciated.
Are there any specific questions she needs to ask from her doctor / physiotherapist?

N.B. This was my first attempt at teaching a yin class - it was actually the beginner sequence in the book, which Bernie was encouraging us to try with real life students.
Thank you for reading my question Smile.

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Joined: 23 Sep 2006
Posts: 1130
Location: Vancouver

PostPosted: Mon May 18, 2020 4:25 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Asymmetries abound, as you have noted, Milena. But, as we discussed last week, let’s back up and ask what our intentions are. With any challenge, illness, condition, etc., what is it you want to do? Your student describes a “dodgy tailbone”. I would like to understand more about what she means: is it painful, dysfunctional, ???. And, then — what is causing it. She said she has been diagnosed with unequal leg lengths. Well, most people have one leg longer and one leg shorter; but this doesn’t automatically mean it is dysfunctional, any more than having a bulging disc or torn meniscus means that you will have pain or disability. One way to diagnose a shorter leg is by looking at the pelvis and seeing if it is “crooked”, however, the research I cite in Your Body, Your Yoga shows that many times what is observed is not a crooked pelvis, or rotated sacrum, or shorter leg; it is actually just one side of the pelvis being longer than the other. The leg may be fine, the sacrum neutral, but one ilia is longer than the other.

In any case, your student has already said that the orthotics affected her negatively, so if one “map” isn’t working, how about trying a different map? Not being able to walk or run because of an orthotic tells me — she needs to get rid of the orthotic! If she was fully functional before her toe surgery, then I can’t imagine her asymmetry is really a problem.

Again, neither you nor I are doctors, so we can’t diagnose her or offer medical advice. But, you can explain the “flying your own plane” principle and encourage her to find a way to fly her own plane without pain or problems. She may have to 1) find a new doctor, and/or 2) experiment a little and see what happens. For example, what happens if she spends a week without the orthotic? (If she has been wearing it for a long time, it may take her time to adjust to not having it.) Doctors are there for her benefit, so she is totally within her rights to find one that is actually helping her and she doesn’t have to accept being “off kilter” or not being able to run again.

Good luck!
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Joined: 09 May 2020
Posts: 3
Location: Scotland

PostPosted: Mon May 18, 2020 10:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Bernie,

Thank you very much for such a speedy reply. I will relay this to my friend and encourage her to try things out.

I can't wait to share this with her!

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