The leg length check that we use in shin tai is used for assessing soft tissue stress in the body and also alignment of the pelvic structure. Usually the assessment for soft tissue stress is done in prone position (face down), while the structural assessment is done in supine (face up).
The leg length check is a valuable tool to feel into the body and gather information to guide treatment
Assessing Meningal Stress
When doing Central Channel we use the leg length check to assess soft tissue stress in the body, especially meningal stress patterns. The receiver is in prone position (except in some advanced central channel work) and the assessment of leg length discrepancy is done at the heels. While holding the feet in the leg length check position, look down at the most inferior level of the heels and determine which side, if any, is ‘short.’
Keep in mind that the leg length check is not actually a check of leg length itself; it is an indicator of soft tissue stress patterns in the body, especially the meninges. Restriction and unsymmetrical torquing of the resulting tension patterns throughout the body can cause one side to appear shorter than the other. This assessment is usually done in prone position so that the sacrum is more free floating and possible structural misalignments there are not dominating the reading.
Why do we check at the heels in this case? Compression that could be present in the joint articulations between the interior malleolus and the calcaneus bone of the heel is considered a valid part of the leg length reading and should be included in the assessment. This goes for any shin tai work that is using leg length check as an evaluation of soft tissue and meningal stress in the system. For those of you who have studied advanced central channel work, this applies when doing the check in prone or supine position. It can be of value to notice if there are compressive forces between the malleolus and heel and keep an eye on how this can change.
We check leg length at the internal malleoli when assessing the structure, because it gives the most accurate reading of pelvic structural alignment. In this case we do not want to include the effects of compressive forces within soft tissue of the ankle bones in our evaluation, because we want the reading to be giving information primarily about the alignment of the structure, not the soft tissue system. We do this structural check in supine position so that the sacrum is stabilized; this makes meningal/soft tissue effects from everything above the sacrum less of a factor in the reading.
Central Channel Diagnostic Tools
Let’s review the evaluation tools we can use when doing central channel work. These diagnostic methods are used to gather information about the body and serve as guides to treatment:
Motion - observation around and in the body for movements and impressions
Radiation - check by scanning with hand or 3rd eye
Achilles Tendons - gentle palpation to assess tension and symmetry; notice the qualities in each side: tension, stiffness, asymmetry, curvature, etc. - this can give information about the stress level and stress history in the system
Leg Length Check - traction, dorsiflexion, eversion, adduction - all in one fluid motion
Critical Point/Alert Response - the critical point is a sensation, it catches our attention
These evaluations can be used on their own or all together. When the body is in pre-phase I or phase I motion, they are used in a more deliberate, systematic way in order to facilitate the more linear treatment to proceed effectively. As restrictive patterns begin to loosen and release and life force circulates and creates more motion, these assessment tools tend to be used more fluidly as they present themselves to the practitioner.
Leg Length Check Details
The Leg Length Check is an evaluation to get information about the amount and type of stresses in a receiver’s system. Usually the short leg is ‘apparent’ and not actually shorter than the other. This becomes clear as the stress patterns release and the ‘short’ leg becomes equal or longer and stays that way for longer periods of time.
A true short leg is possible, but not that common. In our experience, it is anatomically present in less than 5% of people. Working with someone with a true short leg demands more focus, as you will be adjusting your reading to see ‘equal’ differently than usual.
The leg length check takes practice and finesse to do. Do not take it for granted! It develops over time, can always be improved, and you will learn new facets of it as you gain experience. Let’s go over the 4 parts of the leg length check:
Traction - just enough to take out the slack; connect up through the meninges into the occiput; make sure not to push in after the initial tractioning (this is a common mistake, even among experienced practitioners)
Dorsiflexion - flex to the easy motion barrier
Eversion - do not butterfly the feet outwards
Adduction - do not need to force feet all the way together, take the adduction firmly into to the easy motion barrier of the movement and then assess from there
These four parts eventually become integrated into one smooth motion. It is a good idea to break them down sometimes and do the leg length check very deliberately in order to check on your technique.
Another aspect to consider is that the quality of the leg length check changes depending on what phase of motion is happening in the body. More motion = a less deliberate, physical leg length check.
Phase I motion: the check is more mechanical and clinical; all 4 parts are incorporated deliberately
Phase II motion: the check can be done by gently doing a version of the four motions right above the heel (instead of wrapping your hands around the feet); there is less physical movement of the feet in order to do the check and it is more of a feeling
Phase III motion: the check is more implied and sometimes quite light and quick
The leg length check is a valuable tool to feel into the body and gather information to guide treatment. We can use it to understand the type of stress and history of stress in someone’s system. We can get a clear impression of where restrictions are and how they reverberate through the body. We can be guided with precision as to the where, how and when to make contact during a treatment. We can perceive when stress patterns release and allow life force to circulate and adjust and enliven a person’s body and life. Putting some of our attention on this assessment method in order to keep developing it is worth the focus required!