November 19, 2018

Bow legged: Causes, symptoms and treatment

Pediatric Orthopedics

Bowed legs (Blount’s disease) is when a child with bowed legs stands with their feet together and there is a noticeable space between their lower legs and knees, which is very common in toddlers. This can be a result of either one, or both, of the legs curving outward.

Bowed legs naturally begin to straighten as the child grows. If the legs have not straightened by 3 years old, this may be a sign of rickets or Blount’s disease.

What is the cause of bow legs?

  • Physiologic genu varum: In children under 2 years old, the bowing of the legs is normal and will slowly improve as the child grows
  • Blount’s disease: Occurs in toddlers and adolescents as a result of abnormality in the growth plate in the upper part of the shinbone (tibia); the bowing will worsen as the child grows
  • Rickets: A bone disease that causes bowed legs due to lack of calcium, phosphorus or Vitamin D; if treated early, bones will straighten out

Symptoms of bowed legs

  • Awkward walking pattern
  • Turning in of the feet
  • Discomfort in hips, knees or ankles
  • Frequent tripping

How are bowed legs diagnosed?

After a complete medical history review, your physician will perform a physical exam to look at how your child sits, stands and moves.

Your physician may recommend an X-ray to confirm the diagnosis.


Can bow legs be corrected?

In most cases, bowed legs will naturally begin to straighten as the child grows.

Nonsurgical treatment options

  • Observation every six months until bowing has resolved
  • Bracing
  • Medication

Surgical treatment and recovery

In severe deformities where the bowed legs are not straightened naturally overtime, surgery may be necessary to correct the remaining bowing. Surgery may stop further bowing and prevent damage to the growth area of the shin bone.

After surgery, a cast may be used to protect the bone as it heals. Crutches may be necessary for a few weeks, followed by physical therapy to restore strength and range of motion.

Learn more about pediatric orthopedic care at OrthoIndy.

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Megan Golden

By Megan Golden

Megan Golden worked at OrthoIndy from 2012 to 2019, where she wrote a variety of content for our blog, magazines and inbound campaigns. Megan graduated from Ball State University in 2012 with a bachelor’s degree in public relations and advertising and communications studies minor.

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