How to use Clinical Somatics exercises to alleviate functional leg length discrepancy
So, can we change our learned muscular patterns, restore normal gamma loop activity, and retrain our proprioception? Yes, we can! The movement technique of pandiculation allows us to do all of these things by sending accurate feedback to our nervous system about the level of tension in our muscles. Since this is already a long post, I’ll let you read more about pandiculation in this post.
If you’ve learned Clinical Somatics exercises from my online courses or from another Certified Clinical Somatic Educator or Hanna Somatic Educator, you can use this section to help guide you in releasing the muscles that are causing your functional leg length discrepancy.
First, some general advice:
Identify which hip is higher. As I mentioned in the anatomy section, both sides of your body are tight—they’re just tight in different ways. This may sound obvious, but you’ll probably experience better results by first focusing on releasing the muscles that are hiking your higher hip up.
So as you practice the exercises, start by spending more time working with the side on which your hip is higher. Some days, try lying down and practicing the exercises only with that side. When you stand up, you’ll feel unbalanced, but that’s part of the learning and adjustment process that your nervous system needs to go through. Be sure to do the Standing Awareness exercise before and after—this is a critical part of the process of adjusting your proprioception.
As you begin to balance out your hips, you’ll become aware of the different patterns of tension you have on each side of your body, and you’ll figure out how to work with each side to release that tension.
When you do practice the exercises on both sides, notice how each side of your body feels different. Are you using your muscles differently? Can you sense your muscles more on one side than the other? Do you feel like you have more control on one side than the other? Is one side tighter or looser than the other?
You can then go back and forth from side to side, learning from your more coordinated side. If a movement feels easy or “right” on one side, try to replicate that feeling and way of moving on your other side.
It will also be helpful for you to read How to Even Out the Imbalances in Your Body.
Now, some specific exercises. From the Level One Course:
Back Lift: To release your lower back and gluteal muscles on your “higher-hip” side, turn your head to look away from that side. So, when doing the full movement you’ll be lifting up the leg on your higher-hip side.
Side Curl: This is a very important one for you to do every day. Lie down on the side of your lower hip, and practice this curling up to the side of your higher hip. Many people have difficulty sensing and releasing their obliques at first, so be patient with yourself. Really try to get a sense of the muscles on the side of your waist contracting, then release them as slowly as you possibly can—resist gravity as you lower down. Completely relax for a few moments before repeating the movement.
One-Sided Arch & Curl: To work with your higher hip, lift up your knee on your higher-hip side.
Iliopsoas Release: This is another very important one to do every day with the hip that is higher. Take it slow and be gentle—this can be an intense movement if your iliopsoas is tight.
Hip Slides and Hip Raises: These offer a wonderful opportunity to go back and forth from side to side, compare the differences between your two sides, and learn from your more coordinated side. You can also practice these only with your higher-hip side if you wish.
Hip Rotation: Explore these movements to figure out if your hip rotators are unevenly tight. For example, if your right knee moves out to the side easily, but your left does not, then spend some extra time gently lowering your left knee out to the side using the Internal Rotator Release.
From Level Two:
Big X: This is an integrative movement that works with both sides of the body, and can help to improve your body use when walking and running.
Proprioceptive Exercise 2: This standing exercise allows you to directly retrain the postural pattern of functional leg length discrepancy, so it’s an important one to do regularly.
Gluteal Release: Explore this with both sides.
Iliotibial Band Release: Explore this with both sides, but especially the side on which your hip is lower.
Proprioceptive Exercise 3: This standing exercise allows you to retrain the postural pattern of bending your spine to one side or the other, which is often involved in functional leg length discrepancy.
Hip Directions: To work with your higher-hip side, lie down on the side of your lower hip.
Finally, be aware of how you’re using your body as you go through your daily life. Your progress with the exercises will be slower if you continue to do activities or habitual postures that are keeping you stuck in your patterns of tension.
Notice how you use the sides of your body differently when you:
- Stand for a few minutes: do you lean to one side?
- Carry your bag
- Carry your child
- Drive your car
- Work on a computer
- Use your phone
- Sit to read or watch television
- Sleep: do you sleep more on one side than the other?