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Bowlegs and Knock-Knees in Kids

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Parents may be concerned when they notice their toddler seems to be bowlegged or knock-kneed. Typically, there’s nothing to worry about, it’s just part of his or her growth development.

The medical term is genu valgum, but the condition is more commonly called bow-legged or knock-kneed. It usually becomes noticeable when a child is 2 to 3 years old, and it may increase in severity until about age 4. It usually self-corrects by the time a child is about 7 or 8 years old. But if the condition doesn’t appear until a child is 6 or older, it could be a sign that there is an underlying bone disease.

During early childhood, knock-knees actually help a child to maintain balance, particularly when the child begins to walk, or if the foot rolls inward or turns outward. When a child has knock-knees, both knees usually lean inward symmetrically. One knee, however, may "knock" less than the other or may even remain straight.

Sometimes, the condition will persist into the teen years. It’s also more common in girls, although boys can develop it too.

Knock knees are usually part of the normal growth and development of the lower extremities. In some cases, it may be a sign of an underlying bone disease, such as Osteomalacia or rickets.

Obesity can contribute to knock knees—or can cause walking problems that resemble, but aren’t actually, knock-knees. The condition can occasionally result from an injury to the growth area of the shinbone (tibia), which may result in just one knocked knee.

Typically, a child’s legs will straighten naturally by the teen years. Bracing, corrective shoes, and exercise are rarely helpful, and may hinder a child’s physical development and cause unnecessary emotional stress, when the child is very young. Rarely, bowlegs or knock-knees are the result of a disease. Arthritis, injury to the growth plate around the knee, infection, tumor, Blount’s disease (a growth disorder of the shinbone), and rickets all can cause changes in the curvature of the legs. 

There are signs to look for that may indicate that a child’s bowlegs or knock-knees are caused by a more serious medical problem:

·      The curvature is extreme.

·      Only one side is affected.

·      The bowlegs get worse after two years of age.

·      The knock-knees persist after seven years of age.

·      Your child is unusually short for his or her age.

·      There is pain in the knees or in the feet, hips or ankles.

·      Stiff joints.

If your child is experiencing any of these symptoms, your pediatrician should examine him or her.

The good news is that most cases of knock-knees or bowlegs will resolve before a child reaches adolescence. However, if it doesn’t and is left untreated, it can lead to further health problems with joints and muscles, including osteoporosis.

Treatment will depend on the cause and the severity. If there is an underlying disease present, medications and supplements may help resolve the condition. A physical therapist may be able to offer some simple exercises and stretches that help strengthen the muscles and realign the knees. Weight loss is recommended when obesity is a contributing factor. Extra weight puts additional strain on the legs and knees, which can cause knock-knees to worsen. Surgery is the last line of treatment but is typically only recommended in very severe cases.

Children’s health experts suggests that parents not panic if their little one has knock-knees, but that they keep an eye on the condition and see if it goes away as the child gets older. At times, children may not have straight lower legs until they are nine or ten years old.

Story sources: https://www.healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/conditions/orthopedic/Pages/Bowlegs-and-Knock-Knees.aspx

Jenna Fletcher, https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/319894.php

 

 

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