Migraines can be caused by having a short leg. According to a study by the US Army, approximately one out of ten people have an actual leg length difference.
Myofascial (muscle and soft tissue) pain experts Drs. Travell and Simons said that a leg length difference of 1/8 inch or more puts you at risk for pain and dysfunction. Why? Because your body does things automatically to try to correct or adapt or accommodate that difference such as tilt, twist or rotate. These positions can cause a migraine.
There are two types of « short legs. » Both can cause migraines.
One is an actual anatomical difference which could be caused by severe injury or polio or nature and is measurable on x-rays. It could be either the upper or the lower leg bone.
The other type is a functional leg length difference. That means the bones are all the same length but muscles in the body cause one hip to lift. Your hip bones can move independently of each other so it is possible to have one hip that is higher or more forward than the other.
People with a leg length difference often have migraines because walking with a tilt puts a lot of strain on the muscles at the base of the skull. It causes a rotation (slight turning) of the head. That can affect the nerves and blood vessels which play a part in migraines. Those people can have other pain, too, such as hip pain on the short leg side or low back pain pain or TMJ dysfunction.
What’s the fix?
Good news! There is a relatively easy fix so you don’t have to go through life « out of balance » and with migraines.
Anatomical short leg:
Lifting your entire foot on the short leg side enough to level your hips will go a long way in helping you feel better, have fewer migraines, and fewer problems with your neck and muscles.
This requires that you only wear certain shoes. They must have a solid, thick hard rubber sole. A shoemaker can split a firm rubber sole and add a layer of neoprene rubber to lift the short leg. This doesn’t work with air or gel type shoes.
Also, if you have a really skilled shoemaker or cobbler, he might be able to remove your whole sole and replace it with a new, thicker sole.
It may seem like a lot of work or you might not want to give up your stylish shoes but the benefits to your body are huge.
Functional short leg:
A skilled massage therapist can help relax and release the tight out-of-balance muscles that are pulling your bones out of neutral.
How do you know if you have a leg length difference?
Perhaps one pant leg is always longer than the other. That was the clue for my 91 year old client who had back pain and migraines for over 70 years. His doctors never looked for or told him he had a leg length difference but he told me, « My tailor always told me I did! » His anatomical leg length difference was about 2 inches.
Maybe when you look in the mirror you can see that one shoulder is higher than the other or that your head sits off the side instead of dead in the middle of your body. That’s a clue, too.
Or, as you look in the mirror, does your belt line always sit lower on the same side?
How do you know how much lift you need?
A doctor can take x-rays of your legs and hips and measure for you. Or, you can « guestimate » by placing notebooks or magazines under your short leg and adding or removing pages until you feel level and look level in the mirror. Many neuromuscular massage therapists are trained in measuring leg length differences also.
When you get rid of an actual leg length difference and stop the tilting and twisting that your body does to try to make corrections, you can have fewer migraines.
What else can I do?
There is a lot of information and misinformation about migraines. Doctors mostly look at trying to help you get rid of them rather than figure out where they come from. Here’s a clue: There are things your body likes and things it doesn’t like.
In addition to getting your hips level (which your body likes) you can take steps to relax the muscles around your head and neck (which your body also likes.) You can also do simple, gentle movements to help correct your posture and relax your back (which your body likes. too.).
There can be multiple causes for your migraines but the more causes you can get rid of, the less pain you will have.
PLEASE NOTE: Whenever you do movements for your neck, always do them carefully, slowly and thoughtfully. Pay close attention to what’s going on so you don’t aggravate your touchy neck and cause a migraine.