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What Are the Risks of Bow Legs?

Jockeys are prone to bow legs due to their occupation.
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  • Originally Written By: Garry Crystal
  • Revised By: S. Berger
  • Edited By: Niki Foster
  • Last Modified Date: 11 September 2014
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Bow legs, also known as genu varum, is a condition in which a person's legs become abnormally curved outwards. This can sometimes be part of a normal growth pattern and disappear over time, but it can sometimes cause long-term problems. In these cases, the bowing is generally caused by an underlying disorder that worsens over time. This can cause chronic pain, difficulty walking, deformity, and early onset arthritis.

Symptoms

The main symptom of bow legs is their distinctive appearance, in which a person's knees remain wide apart when he stands with his feet together. Age is also an important consideration. Since many young children have a natural rounded shape to their legs, a person is not considered to have a medical problem unless the legs don't straighten out by the time he is three or four years old. If the condition continues, then a person will likely have knee and hip pain, an awkward gait, and a tendency to turn the toes inwards while walking, and be prone to tripping.

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Causes

Bowing that doesn't naturally resolve itself can be caused by a few different things, including Blount's disease, rickets, tumors, and injuries. Blount's disease is a condition in which the shin bones turn inwards, causing a curve primarily below the knees. It's not know what causes it, but it tends to be more common in those of African ancestry. It happens much more quickly than regular bowing, and often happens in only one leg. Though it is treatable, an early diagnosis is important, as the legs can become increasingly and permanently deformed if not treated.

Another common cause of bow legs is rickets, which is a condition caused by a vitamin D deficiency. In this case, the curve tends to happen in both legs, since the lack of vitamin D causes bones to get soft. Like Blount's disease, rickets is treatable, but can lead to permanent deformity if it's not addressed promptly.

Genetic disorders, skeletal infections, and tumors may also contribute to being bow legged. This includes things like Paget's disease of the bone, osteogenesis imperfecta, arthritis, and bone cancer. Some people are also prone to bow legs because of their occupation — for instance, jockeys often get them — or develop them because of an injury, like a leg fracture that heals improperly.

Complications

People with bow legs are generally more likely to develop arthritis at an early age, particularly if arthritis runs in their family. In these cases, their posture places abnormal pressure on the knee and ankle joints, which creates joint inflammation. This can degrade the cartilage and tissues around the joint, and lead to problems walking. Besides arthritis, people with bow legs tend to have chronic pain and inflammation of their ankles, knees, and hips that can lead to problems with posture and walking. Additionally, they may suffer psychological pain from bullying about their appearance.

Prevention and Treatment

Though many cases of bow legs can't be entirely prevented, it is possible to lower the risk of getting them or decrease their severity by getting good nutrition and consulting a health care professional regularly about any problems with the legs. Those at risk for rickets can take calcium supplements, spend time in the sun, and consult a metabolism specialist for help.

The treatment for bow legs largely depends on the underlying cause. If the curve is very minor, then treatment may be unnecessary. In those with Blount's disease, braces or splints are usually tried first to realign the shin bones, but surgery may be needed to truly correct the alignment of the leg. Rickets is generally treated with braces and supplements to help the bones become hard again, though braces may not be used for very young children, since they could cause their bones to develop abnormally.

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Discuss this Article

anon925159
Post 44

I am 22 and have bow legs. It has never been treated and I didn't tell any specialist. Now I want to start treatment. Is it possible at this age, or do you know any other treatments?

anon346965
Post 43

I am 22 and I snapped my ACL in my knee when I was 19. I had an arthroscopy to trim cartilage but never had ACL reconstruction surgery. My leg is now bowed slightly. I only just noticed. Exercising helps the knee pain but while walking it feels uncomfortable and my knee clicks awfully. Can the leg be corrected without surgery?

anon344222
Post 42

I'm 16, bow legged, and I'm almost positive it's (negatively) affecting my athletic ability. I'm also angered that it robs me of some of my height. I want to see a doctor to get them fixed but I can't afford to sit out of my sport for three months. What should I do?

anon342673
Post 41

I am 22 and I am suffering from bow legs. I noticed it when I was 18. It was a slight bend in just one leg at that time. After three years, the condition started worsening and then my second leg started bowing and after six or seven months, both legs are bowed and have worsened. I feel a jerk in both legs while walking and sometimes I feel imbalanced as if I am going to hit the ground. It’s not only embarrassing, but making me concerned. Is surgery necessary to cure it?

anon341911
Post 40

I'm 18 and have bowed legs. My right lag has pain where the knee is and hurts sometimes when I bend it or walk. Should I be concerned?

anon332784
Post 39

My legs have been bowed for as long as I can remember. in USMC boot camp (18 years old) my right hip started giving me chronic pain and a few years later, my left. Could this be caused by my bowleggedness?

P.S. While in the Marines they ran a battery of tests, including an MRI, with the the conclusion that I don't have hip pain.

anon329382
Post 38

My son is 16 months old. I started seeing he had bowlegs, and with time, it has become more noticeable. His two brothers had the same problem at the same age. The eldest's bowlegs improved, The second one received a D3 injection of 600,000iu at age 14 months and now he is normal. My question is can they use the same injection on my son?

anon303992
Post 35

My sister told me I have bow legs, but I already knew it. I walk normally but everybody says something when I'm standing (it's my friends and I don't really care).

I don't know if I should be worried or not. Should I?

mugwort
Post 34

Are there any genetic conditions that include both bowed legs and flat feet?

anon284068
Post 33

I'm 17 now but in fifth grade, my legs started hurting and I became bowlegged. My left leg is a little more bowlegged than my right. Should I be worried?

anon282647
Post 32

I am 16 and I have bowlegs and my legs turned that way when I was 14. What can I do now?

anon256954
Post 31

My son is two years old and he been operated on for a bent leg. Please tell me whether he can recover soon and are there any side effects from this type of surgery.

anon246478
Post 30

My daughter is 15 months old and her legs bow severely. and she waddles when she walks. If this is happening to your child, I would take all the necessary steps to make sure it's nothing severe. I took all the steps I needed to take and my daughter was diagnosed with x linked hypophosphatemic rickets. We go to Riley's Children's Hospital next week to figure out her treatment.

It's better to be safe than sorry. If you are questioning it, get their blood tested, even if the doctor says it will be fine. I didn't listen to one of my doctors when they told us that, and I'm glad I didn't.

anon236688
Post 29

I'm 24 years old and I realized a couple of years ago that I am bow-legged. my knees don't touch when I stand with my ankles together. They are evenly bowed, and I walk normally, but I don't like how my legs look. they'd be much prettier if they were straight. What can I do?

anon220491
Post 28

To be honest I'm bow legged slightly (about 1.5 inches from the knee, and two inches below) and I find it as an advantage in basketball. I can cross over people a lot easier and I am a fast sprinter, but since I'm 6'4 tall, my legs are long and it gets awkward at moments.

I can dunk but barely.

Don't let bow legs stop you from becoming great. Lebron James is bowlegged and he can dunk like everything. You think if he wasn't bow legged he would be better than he already is? please. Be active and so safe squats that fit your style (should not have lower back pain, if you have lower back pain your doing something wrong). Also you can get insoles to ease your stride.

anon179658
Post 26

I am 25 years old and am bow legged (1.5" at knees and around 2" below the knees). I have been very active my whole life and have always been told I have some of the best legs they have ever seen. (So ladies' bow legs can be pretty, just get your legs in shape).

However, as I get older, I work out less. So after I do run, my lower back or tail bone feels unaligned and hurts as I walk for the next couple days. Also, my knees feel like they are coming unattached from my tibia sometimes and ache when I sit for long periods of times. I'm not sure if this is due to being bow legged and am curious if it is? I also don't want my legs to get more bow legged because of the medical reasons. Any advice? -Linds4

anon160168
Post 25

I was in Japan and saw a TV program about bow legs. The therapist suggested the girl (who was in her early 20s) to do an easy exercise twice a day: simply stand close to the wall. The heals, bottom, back, shoulders should all touch the wall. Try to stand as close to the wall as possible with the lower back touching the wall, too. Do this twice a day for 15 minutes. apparently it helps with bow leg. I can't prove it as I only saw on TV but it's worth a try.

anon157194
Post 24

I'm 17, and over the past couple of years my right leg has become more bowed than my left, its also become more noticeable as I have lost weight. I have been told by a physiotherapist that I also have a wonky pelvis meaning that I put more weight onto the right leg. I am concerned that this uneven weight distribution could be causing my leg to bend more.

I get severe pain when I walk for long distances and the cold really affects it. I just don't want it to get any worse, and it's causing me to have a loss of confidence as I am really aware it. I don't know what to do.

anon149220
Post 23

I'm male and have bowed legs. This really pisses me off and lowers my self confidence. Why me? Is there anything i can do about it i live in the UK. I'm 23 now and have a bout 5cm gap between my knees but it looks a lot worse when i walk, can i get surgery. I've been to my doctor but i feel she will not do anything about it. I also feel its robbing me of a few cm's, and I've heard i can develop early arthritis. Please tell me something.

anon144448
Post 22

I am 54 years old and have bow legs. I noticed when I was a teen but it was not very pronounced. since I was about 30 it has been getting worse. I was diagnosed with osteo-arthritis in my knee around that time.

Two years ago, the arthritis was causing lots of pain. last june I had my left knee replaced and in February, I am having my right knee replaced. my legs are extremely bowed now and the orthopaedic doctor said they have worsened due to my knee damage and there is nothing they can do to fix it. Surgery is too risky for me as I also have MS. He is hoping that it will not progress further once i have the last knee replaced.

I never wear dresses, ever. it makes me feel too self conscious.

anon144041
Post 21

i'm 15 years old and i realized a couple of months ago that i am bow-legged. my knees don't touch when i stand with my ankles together. they are evenly bowed, and i walk normally, but i don't like how my legs look. they'd be much prettier if straight. what can i do?

anon127558
Post 19

I'm almost 15 and just noticed today that my right leg is bowed. I'm really worried and think it may be a product of me leaning my weight on my right leg. Is there anything i can do to fix it besides surgery?

anon108506
Post 17

I am 14 years old. I have bow legs, and due to my bow legs my right foot is slightly tilted inwards.

Do i need to do surgery or can i avoid it. will there be a problem later.

anon107347
Post 16

I am 16 and I have had problems with my knees. I went to the doctor and he said it was due to my athletic activity and the fact I was growing. My legs have actually begin straightening out due to the fact that I stretch and lift to strengthen my legs. I am 6'1 and still growing and haven't had problems since. That's my small story.

anon105093
Post 15

I'm 26 years old and have knocked knees. this lowers my self esteem. I do not want to have surgery. Is there any help and hope for me? i can't wear anything and am never smart. --Nina

anon101786
Post 14

my one year old granddaughter has severe bow legs. D# diagnosed is 64nmo///land d2 is <10 nmo/l

is there a cause for worry?

anon87041
Post 11

I'm 13,and i think i have bow legs. but i don't know. should i go to the doctor?

anon86187
Post 10

I am bow-legged, i am 14 years old and I've gone to the doctor several times but i got supports for it.

anon73213
Post 9

i am 21,and i am bow legged. i didn't concern myself with this matter until i started running.

i felt pain in my ankle so i went to the doctor. he said you didn't need surgery but you'd better not run. i really want to run and also be healthy. please guide me.

anon69612
Post 8

I am 11 years old, I have bow legs but only on my right leg. I do have some pains in my leg regularly, but I have been to the doctors about this and have had several operations. How can I cure my bow legs?

anon66304
Post 7

My daughter is 12 months old and she has bowed legs. i'm really worried about this.

Otherwise she walks normally. Should i go through x ray and blood tests for calcium? If anyone has any information regarding this, do tell me. thanks in advance.

anon58909
Post 6

my son is 13 and i just noticed he has bow legs. it never has come up at our regular medical check ups so I am not sure how long he has had this condition. Should I be concerned?

aaabel
Post 4

i'm 19th this year and i'm bow legged and i've flat feet as well.. i'm an active sportsman and i'm just wondering if there is any precaution i can take before playing sports? and is there any cause for concern here? thanks

anon16612
Post 3

my daugher is 15 months, she has bow legs, doctor put her on some plaster type on both legs, only for night, for 6 months. she was walking normally.

thanks

shannamiller
Post 2

Just wondering..I'm 19 and have bow legs. i've never been to any kind of doctor about it or asked any other questions. is there any cause for concern?

anon6368
Post 1

I'm 19, and have bow legs. But to be honest, I guess I never noticed until a couple of years ago.. is there any cause for concern here?

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