Below are the 5 best strategies I’ve found for dealing with my hip pain, back pain, scoliosis, and neck pain.

my leg length discrepancy hip pain
Unbalanced hips, spine, shoulders, arms and neck.

These are awesome for any person really, but are absolutely vital to my enjoyment of life with an uneven body!

If you have a leg length discrepancy, then you probably suffer hip pain, back pain, or neck pain.

Likewise, you’ll have scoliosis to some level – a lateral curve in your spine.

The weight sits on unbalanced hips all day every day, so it’s easy to understand how pain occurrs.

My discrepancy was 10cm before surgeries, and now it’s around 2.5cm… so all my life I’ve been learning how to deal with the pain, because really, the options are: either suffer or be proactive.

Here we go… My 5 Pain Strategies:

Strategy 1. Yoga

Yoga stretches your muscles and joints, allows you to breathe into those tight spots, and alleviates the pain that comes with a shorter leg.

Yoga goes across the spectrum from gentle stretching to really challenging yourself and building strength.

We all like instant solutions, and for me, I can walk into the yoga studio sore and stressed from a busy day, lie down on the mat, listen to the teacher’s instructions, and walk out a completely different person – calm, relaxed, with my pain alleviated.

One of the massive benefits of yoga is that you deal with the whole body. When you focus on alleviating the major pain in one area only, it can sometimes create pain in another area.

Practicing yoga stretches and strengthens your whole body… so when you release those hips, your back and supporting muscles are strong enough to take the stress (more on this later).

What type of yoga?

I love all types of yoga really, but my first love was Bikram.

Bikram Yoga works well for a person with one leg shorter because often, our muscles are so extremely tight.

The heat of Bikram Yoga warms the muscles and allows you to stretch deeper without hurting your muscles. For me, this is often better than a cold class.

Just work within your own limits though, some Bikram teachers can be irresponsible and push students too far in poses (they love intensity). Listen to your body.

Word of warning: Bikram Yoga is an extreme workout in a very hot room.

If Bikram yoga isn’t for you, pretty much any other yoga is great also… and can do amazing things for your hips, back, and entire body and mind.

My favourite non-Bikram classes are yin-yang, yin, and flow – for a multitude of reasons really, but I find these work well with uneven hips.

Experiment and find a class that suits you, with a good teacher.

Once you’ve got a good feeling for how yoga works with your body, you can start doing your own routines at home – but I suggest beginning with classes so the teachers can guide you and adjust your form.

Tips for practicing yoga with hip pain and a short leg:

Do a few exercises before class

Abdominal Flutter Kicks are good to engage the core before class. Pelvic Tilts are great to loosen up the hips and get them warm – an exercise you want to do a lot anyway!

Customize your practice the way your body tells you

I used a 2.5 cm block when I first started practicing yoga, in order to even up my hips during yoga.

This was simply an idea that I thought might help me, so I tried it, and it did prevent “new pain” in the early days. I discussed it with a few good teachers, and they agreed, so I persisted.

Now my muscles and joints have opened up enough that I don’t need a block anymore, but it really helped me in the first year.

Tell the teacher about your shorter leg before class

Then they’ll know to keep an eye on your form, and they’ll understand that you may not be able to do some poses.

Plus… when I tell a yoga teacher “I have one leg longer than the other”, it often tweaks their interest… it’s an interesting challenge for them and they’re generally really keen to help.

Many teachers like to be reminded before each class… they have 20 students, so don’t expect them to remember every time.

If you do yoga, listen to your body and let it guide you!

Everyone has a unique body, and your body is especially unique with one leg shorter.

Listen to your body first and foremost, if it doesn’t feel right, or if you feel pain beyond a “good challenge”, then ease off.

If you need to, come out of the pose and lie on your back breathing into any areas of discomfort.

This is improving your understanding of your body, and improving your body.

Yoga gets a lot of criticism (rightly so) for causing injuries.

The thing is, there are some bad yoga teachers out there who don’t sequence the class correctly or who try to push students too far (especially in Bikram).

After hundreds of classes in 7 countries, I found that most teachers know what they’re doing, but you do need to be aware and take responsibility for your own body.

I’ve been in a position where I had to tell a teacher firmly “no” (in a Spanish yoga class), where she was trying to push me into a bad position. Listen to your body, and it’ll guide you.

Strategy 2: Meditation to ease pain

Meditation may sound like a funny suggestion, but it works.

The mind body connection is a pretty well accepted phenomenon in the medical world nowadays, and for me, it has changed my life.

My favourite is to do a body-scan style deep breathing exercise, focusing on different areas of my body as I go.

I often start at my shoulders and arms as I find they are easy to notice the change as I relax.

Then I make my way down to my hips, and relax them with deep breaths while focusing on a few particular spots around my hips – wherever there is tension.

With the inhale I sometimes tense my muscles, then on the exhale I let go and relax the muscles as best I can.

When relaxing my hips, often another muscle group (e.g my shoulders) will tense up in reaction. Then I’ll move back to my shoulders, focus on relaxing them again, then go back to the hips.

It’s a practice of persistence and really getting in tune with your body, but it can make a huge difference over time.

My Hip-Meditation Story

When I was at university, I worked as a labourer during the holidays, smashing rock with a pick-axe on the side of a hill, then putting the rock into buckets and carrying it down the hill.

It was an intense job, and at the end of the day, my uneven hips and back were screaming with pain.

I had just started dabbling with meditation to help with my studies, then for some reason I started really focusing on breathing into my muscles and joints.

I breathed, and slowly went through my body, focusing on every muscle that I could feel aching – breathing and imagining them expand as I inhaled, then collapse into relaxation as I exhaled.

Well, when I woke up the next morning, my muscles and joints made audible creaking noises, and my body felt amazing.

It was a crazy moment of breakthrough.

Since then, I’ve continued developing this method, and using my meditation sessions to bring relief to my body – particularly my hips, back, neck and shoulders!

And it’s not just immediate relief. The effects of meditation get stronger and create real lasting change in your body (and mind) when you practice consistently.

I do this “muscle and joint focus” during meditation, during savasana in yoga, in bed at night, and even a variation sometimes when I’m waiting to cross the road.

There are so many benefits that meditation offers. Do it! It will transform your body and your mind!

Strategy 3: Massage

I spent about 2 years getting a massage every month, and it changed my body.

To begin with I jumped every time the masseuse touched my back. 

My muscles were tight and tense – over compensating in some places and weak in others.

Today, I don’t jump at all, and my muscles have relaxed and grown strong.

Massage really changed my body for the better.

How to choose a good massage therapist

I found a masseuse who came recommended and was also a yoga teacher – as I felt she was in line with my approach to working with my body.

We talked about my body and what I wanted to achieve, and worked together.

I communicated how it was feeling as we began, what felt too intense or not enough, and how my body had felt during the previous weeks – and I learned to trust her skill and judgement.

Massage also taught me a lot about my body and how the muscles and joints work together and affect each other.

I tried a few types of massage and different therapists, and settled on a general sports massage and trigger point therapy – which seems perfect for the issues of a short leg syndrome body.

If you’re going to go down the massage route, don’t choose solely based on price. Find someone who is recommended or has reviews online, and who fits with your approach.

Strategy 4: Muscle Pain Relief Cream

This is such a simple and under-rated thing to have.

If you have muscle relief cream with you at all times, you can ease your pain by giving yourself a little massage with ingredients that help your muscles and joints.

Today I make my own pain relieving cream, which can be used on pretty much any part of my body that’s sore at the time – or for a general preventative massage.

But there are also many good options you can buy.

Look for something containing arnica for muscle and joint relief.

Strange tip: Before I started making my own, I occasionally used Vicks VapourRub on my hips, legs and feet – which is a crazy and amazing experience.

The camphor and menthol give an intense heating sensation that really relaxes your muscles.

I don’t use Vicks anymore because it’s made with petroleum, and I prefer my own recipe. But it was very amazing at the time for occasional use.

One extra benefit of massaging your own muscles is that you get to know your body and what helps you… you start learning how to treat yourself for long-term pain relief.

Strategy 5: A gentle exercise for hip pain

(plus it’ll release tension in your back and neck too)

I love this exercise because it gives instant AND long term relief…

It’s simple, gentle, meditative…. I think it’s just a perfect exercise for anyone with a shorter leg and uneven hips!

I normally do it for between 5-20 minutes, depending on how much time I have and how my hips are feeling.

It’s similar to a hamstring stretch using a rubber resistance band, but then you gently move your foot, to release tension and pain in the hips and supporting areas.

You’ll need a resistance band. If you don’t have one, you could use something similar (like a towel).

Instructions: Gentle hip release exercise

Lie on the floor on a yoga mat or blanket (your tailbone should be cushioned).

Use a resistance exercise band to lift your leg in the air and stretch your hamstring.

Come to your “challenge point” then ease off to a comfortable spot. Take 5 breaths, noticing any tension in your body.

Start making tiny circles with your foot, breathing and focusing on your hips and surrounding muscles.

Do this for 10 breaths, moving slowly with your breath – half a circle on the inhale, then complete the circle on the exhale.

Take 10 breaths clockwise, then 10 anti-clockwise… the different sensations will surprise you!!

When you’re ready, slowly start to move the centerpoint of your circles up, down, left or right, exploring whatever feels good.

Be mindful and focus on your breathe. The point is to move and breathe gently, not to push it to the extremes.

You’ll quickly identify what feels good and what’s too much. If you get to a point that is too much, ease off a little and take 5 deep breaths.

You are releasing tension from your muscles and joints. Take it slow, and understand that your body is built differently… it needs care and attention… and it will thank you.

Variations

Once you’re comfortable with small circles, you can change it up and expand your movement (depending on your flexibility, you might want to start small for the first week or so).

You can expand by:

Moving slightly higher or lower with your leg, continuing with the small circles.

When I lower my leg (hovering above the ground), it really works my hip flexors and abs.

Extend your leg by pushing your heel out further. This creates a very different sensation.

You can also make your circles wider – but go slowly and mindfully when doing this, as it’s easy to push it too wide.

This is a real exploration exercise.

It reminds me of a robotic vacuum cleaner, exploring a room and searching for the corners. Widening the range that your hips move and releasing tension that builds up.

Something that I’ve discovered recently is that the abs on my right side (my shorter leg side) are much weaker than my left – and I really notice it when I’m working my left leg… interesting the things you discover when you explore!

This exercise will relieve a lot of tension and pain in your hips, back, and entire body really. But like anything, you may experience a shift in tension afterwards (normally less intense).

If this happens, do a little Childs Pose, Downward Dog, Hug Your Knees into your chest, or whatever stretch you find works particularly well for your body.

Really focus on the feeling in your hips and supporting muscles, rather than doing it quickly while thinking about work or something else that’s going on.

I like to listen to some soft piano or mantra music while doing this, to get my mind in tune with the moment and clear away any busy thoughts.

I hope you enjoyed my 5 strategies. I realise it’s a very long article, but I’ve found that it’s the details and small adjustments that have really helped my body – so I wanted to share the most powerful ones with you.

Having one leg shorter can cause pain and discomfort, but with a few good strategies, these can be overcome.

Let me know in the comments below if you enjoyed these, if you use any of them yourself, or if you have any other suggestions that work for you.

About The Author
Hi I'm Greg, and I was born with a one leg shorter than the other and a club foot.

Over the past few years I've discovered many ways to improve my body and well being. Some friends suggested I share what's worked for me... so I made this blog.

I also co-created a mindfulness program - 7 Minute Mindfulness - based on the mindfulness techniques that have helped me with my leg problems, and life in general. Check it out if you're interested.

I hope something on here helps you.