Bow-leggedness is the appearance of the leg as it curves outwards from the knees; this is medically termed ‘genu varum’. Parents typically notice that when the child is standing at attention, the ankles are touching but there is a large gap between the knees.
Bow legs are common in babies due to the confined space inside the womb causing the tibia bones to be pressed together, this is typical of paediatric growth and is called physiologic bow legs. While some medical professionals will recommend massage as a baseline treatment for this issue, casting should be considered for obvious cases as such treatments are more likely to be effective if the child is treated before they start walking.
If a child is showing signs of bow leg past the physiological time frame, our podiatrists must ascertain whether the bow leg is caused by bone growth problems such as Rickets or Blount’s disease. Most infants and toddlers have at least some physiologic bowing of their legs, which parents may become concerned; other family members may have such knee shapes that did not resolve during childhood growth and development.
Certain severe bow legs in older children may be because of Blount’s disease or another medical condition. Blount’s disease is more common in children who:
- Are overweight
- Started walking at an early age
- Have a family member who had the condition
Typical complaints associated with bowing of the legs include:
- In-toeing (pigeon toe walking)
- Tripping and stumbling often
- Clumsy or awkward walking pattern
- Foot, ankle, or knee pain in later life
- Difficulty running and participating in sports
- Foot alignment – typically flatfoot condition
Leaving bow legged conditions untreated gives a patient an increased risk of developing knee joint problems as an adult.
Bow Legged Treatment
Treatment of significant bow legs often involves close monitoring of the child with the use of lower limb braces, ankle-foot orthotics or customized orthotic devices, footwear modifications, and physical therapy. If the condition is severe or still present when the child is older or in adolescence, then surgery may be required to correct the abnormal bone alignment.