62057086 - a man with physiological bow legs

Bowed legs are a unique and troublesome condition that many individuals may suffer from at a fairly young age. This condition can be very common during childhood, but is generally outgrown. However, this is not always the case. Some individuals may suffer from bowed legs throughout their lives. This can not only be an annoyance, but may also lead to related problems with their physical health later in life. Most bowed-leg individuals normally have no issue with walking, but it may lead to other social and occupational problems, such as bullying, self-esteem issues and employment limits (depending on the jobs).

Common Symptoms

Bowed-leg individuals are instantly noticeable. Bowed legs are recognizable as they tend to represent the shape of a bow when the individual stands up straight with their feet together. There will be a distinct gap between the two knees, so much so that the calves face inwards when compared to the outward facing thighs. The gap can vary in size and both legs do not have to be bent. Sometimes, individuals may have one leg that is bow shaped and others may have both. It has also been identified that bowed legs prevent a wide range of motion in the hips. Either way, if bowed legs are present at a young age there may not be anything to worry about because bowed legs (or genu varum, as it is called in the medical profession) is very common during early years of life.

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Bowed Legs in Childhood

Bowed legs are very common during the first years of life, but many parents aren’t aware of this. Frequently, parents seek out a doctor’s assurance that their child is alright and will often be told the same thing as everyone else: it is perfectly normal. Bowed legs can occur as soon as babies are born, and bowed legs in children under the age of 18 months are well documented. Bowed-leg children may have the condition for years, and it is still common to have a child with bowed legs up to the age of three. Usually, around the ages of 12-18 months (when the child begins to crawl and stand), the legs will be subject to more tension from the weight of the child. As a result, they tend to straighten out. However, there are cases where the child may never grow out of it. It is at this point when they are officially deemed as bowlegged.

Causes of Bowed Legs in Childhood

Bowed legs in children between the ages of 0-3 years is well researched and there is a pretty clear cause to the condition. It can be found that the bowed legs occur because of the way the infant is folded in the womb. The legs tend to be arched slightly and this can still persist once the child has been born. Of course, there is nothing to worry about unless they surpass the age of three and still have their bowed legs. It’s not serious, but it may lead to later problems in relation to their physical health as previously mentioned.
Causes of Bowed Legs in Adulthood

As mentioned in the previous point, bow-legged children who persist through the age of three are most likely going to have the bowed legs for the majority of their lives. There may be a chance that they straighten out as time goes on, but more often than not, they’re stuck with them. There is a range of proposed causes for adult bowed legs, but there is no general consensus. There are, however a number of bowed leg corrections available. It is believed that bowed legs are the result of some other underlying condition or illness. Below are a number of considered causes for bow legs in adulthood.

Blount’s Disease

Bowed legs are sometimes automatically called Blount’s disease, and it is believed by many that there is a strong association between the two. Blount’s disease is a growth disorder that can be present in both toddlers and adolescents. So even if you grew out of the bowed structure by three years of age, it can still come back to haunt you when you hit puberty. The disease is indistinguishable from genu varum before the age of three, so it is a bit of a waiting game before you find out which one it is. This disease specifically targets the upper shin and causes the growth plates in the tibia to bend and deform, resulting in bowed legs. Blount’s disease is common and treatable, but the treatment varies depending on the age of the individual. Different precautions will be taken if the disease is discovered in infancy compared to adolescence.

Rickets

Rickets has also been seen to have an impact on the bowlegs in childhood and onwards. Rickets is a much rarer case than Blount’s disease and is the result of malnutrition. Rickets is a bone disorder that occurs from a lack of essential vitamins and nutrients, including vitamin D, calcium, and phosphate. Rickets causes the bones of the individuals to soften and weaken and this can lead to the bowing of the legs if the problem persists into something critical. This is why bowlegs are common in neglected children who are not fed properly. Saying this, vitamin D is known as the “sunlight vitamin” because it is created through the sun. However, many processed and man-made foods contain the vitamin, thus linking it to malnutrition. There are several types of rickets, but nutritional rickets is by far the most common. If not treated it can not only result in bowed legs, but also death.

Abnormal Bone Growth (Other than Blount’s Disease)

Abnormal bone growth can occur not only through Blount’s disease and rickets but also through infections and tumors. One of the more well-known bone infections that causes bowlegs is osteomyelitis. This is a bacterial infection that is very common in children. It causes the bones to become sore, red and it is often accompanied by a fever. The infection can commonly occur because of a fracture or broken bone and develops through either the bloodstream or directly from an exposed bone. Anyone can get this infection at any age and it has been seen to cause bowed legs if left for a prolonged period of time.

Lead Poisoning

This is incredibly rare and is not seen often as a cause of bowlegs. This is only present in young children, and an x-ray and blood sample will often be able to identify whether the child has lead poisoning. If they have, this may be a cause of their bowed legs.
Wrongly Healed Fractures

This is fairly common and can be a cause for both childhood and adulthood bowlegs. If the child fractures their tibia and it is not seen as a serious injury, it may heal incorrectly, resulting in bowed legs. This is also true for an adult. People break bones all the time, and if an individual were to fracture their shin awkwardly and not do anything about it, they may develop bowlegs when the bones begin to heal. If the fracture is particularly bad, surgery may become a possibility.




Occupational Causes

It is not uncommon for bowed-leg individuals to get their condition from occupational hazards. One such observation can be made with jockeys. They are constantly bent around a horse and because of this, they tend to walk a little different when they get off. Prolonged riding can cause a lot of problems both with the back and legs. Other occupational causes include physical trauma associated with the shin.

The Tests and Examinations for Bowed Legs

If your child is still bowlegged after the age of three and the problem seems to be getting worse, you may need to consult a pediatrician. There are a number of tests and examinations that a pediatrician or doctor can do to assess whether your child is still in the genu varum phase or whether they have an underlying problem. Common methods of examination including X-rays of the bone to check if there is any abnormal growth; blood tests to check the vitamin D levels as well as to identify whether the child has lead poisoning; observation of how the child walks; and they can also measure the gap between the knees to identify if the child is bowlegged.

Through these methods, deductions can be drawn. If your child is found to have bowed legs, they may need immediate treatment.

What Are the Repercussions If Left Untreated?

If the bowed legs are left untreated, they may lead to further issues in later life. These are related more to physical issues involved with movement. The most common issue that bowlegged individuals face in late life is arthritis. There are hundreds of different types of arthritis because many bone and joint conditions tend to fall into the category. However, the main type of arthritis that is felt from individuals with bowed legs is inflammatory arthritis. This is where the joints and bones of the individuals with bowed legs become inflamed, which can cause a significant amount of pain. Inflammation is a method the body employs to heal and help itself, but the immune system is triggered without explanation and essentially attacks the bones. There is no definitive answer to what causes arthritis, but bowlegs have been correlated with the disorder.

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Treatment

There are a lot of ways to fix bowed legs and bowleg correction varies depending on the age of the individual and at what stage they are in the bow-legged process. If the individual in question is a child, then milder and less serious methods are used to correct the issue, which are usually non-invasive. However, if the bowed legs are very serious and are in need of immediate remedy, then invasive procedures will need to be considered in order to correct the legs.
There are also a number of exercises you can do to help with bowed legs. They can be incredibly effective if used correctly. Some classes also help straighten bowed legs, and if you stay committed you may see some good results. One of these courses is Pilates, which is great for stretching your muscles and bones in order to achieve increased flexibility. Yoga is also another great way to remedy bowlegs, and if you find the right class you can also find great results. Of course, the internet is a great resource, and there are plenty of online courses available which enable you to correct your bowlegs.

Conclusion

Bowed legs are incredibly frustrating and are caused for a variety of reasons. Many reasons are still not verified, and it is very difficult to distinguish genu varum and Blount’s disease at a young age, which leads to diagnostic problems. Some of the other causes of bowed legs include occupational and infection, but those are much more rare. Thankfully, there are a number of tests that a doctor can perform to identify whether you have bowlegs and treat you accordingly. However, treatment can be incredibly expensive, and you may want to investigate other methods until you opt for surgery. Join clubs and try a few online courses. Through perseverance, you may succeed in straightening your own legs.