Bowlegs and Knock-knees

What is it?

Knock-knees and bowlegs are two separate conditions that both involve incorrect positioning of the legs.

Knock-knees (or genu valgum) refers to a condition whereby the legs curve inwards in standing position. The ankles and feet will remain wide apart when the child stands with their knees placed together.

Bowlegs (or genu varum) refers to a condition where the legs curve outwards in standing position. As opposed to knock-knees, the knees will remain wide apart when the child stands with ankles and feet together.

Who gets it?

Bowlegs occur in infancy due to the baby’s folded position in the uterus, however the condition does not become apparent until such time as the child begins to walk. By the age of three, the legs usually begin to straighten and a normal appearance is attained.

Knock-knee commonly occurs in children who are between three and eight years old. The condition usually resolves on its own, however for some children, the knees may not completely correct until adolescence.

How is it treated?

Unless there is an underlying cause or the child’s condition is extreme, no treatment is generally necessary. Corrective measures, such as exercise programs, splints, special shows and so on are not recommend as normal growth often resolves the condition naturally.

Some degree of knock-knee or bowlegs is present in most people and considered normal within the limits of posture. To measure improvement, photograph your child even 6 months, ensuring that their kneecaps are pointing forward.

When should an Orthopaedic Surgeon be consulted?

You will need to see an orthopaedic surgeon if:

  • Bowlegs that fail to resolve or progress after the age of 3
  • Knock-knees still present after the age of 8
  • The symptoms present on only one side
  • Your child is unusually short for their age; or
  • Your child has a limp or pain associated with the condition
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