Bowlegs represent a quite common condition in young children that nevertheless stirs up certain worries in parents. While the majority of bowlegs resolve themselves early in life, others may linger and grow more severe due to specific health challenges, potentially resulting in long-term joint pain and other problems.
If your own baby’s legs appear bowed, you’ll benefit from understanding the possible causes and symptoms of bowlegs, along with the methods orthopedic specialists use to diagnose and treat the condition. Take a look at some frequently asked questions about bowlegs.
Why and How Do Bowlegs Develop?
Bowlegs usually occur for no specific reasons other than as a natural part of pediatric skeletal development. Babies commonly display bowed lower legs from birth through the first 18 months of life. The legs may then straighten out before taking on a knock-kneed appearance in early childhood and finally straightening again.
Sometimes, however, bowlegs retain an abnormal outward curve past the age of two. This problem may occur due to rickets, a softening of the bones from low levels of phosphate, calcium, and Vitamin D. It may also stem from a growth plate problem known as Blount’s disease.
Other, less-understood factors during growth may influence a child’s risk for bowlegs For instance, one study of children who participate in sports showed that bowlegs occurred in a significantly higher number of young soccer players as opposed to tennis players of the same age.
When Do Bowlegs in Children Pose Long-Term Concerns?
Bowed legs before the age of two present little concern, especially if each leg appears bowed to the same degree. If your child’s legs fail to straighten themselves out several months beyond this point, your orthopedic specialist can take X-rays and blood samples to determine why and how the legs remain bowed.
Untreated bowlegs may grow progressively more extreme from adolescence into adulthood. If the condition goes untreated, the stress on the knee joints may result in an abnormal posture or gait, chronic pain when walking, and premature arthritis in adulthood.
What Conservative Techniques Can Treat Bowlegs?
Many cases of bowlegs respond well to non-invasive treatment methods, especially when bowlegs is caught early in development. In fact, your orthopedic specialist may prefer simply to monitor the condition to see whether it will slow, stop, or reverse itself without any treatment at all.
Conservative treatment for bowlegs from Blount’s disease typically involves leg braces to correct leg alignment. Orthotic footwear can correct postural imbalances and make walking or running more comfortable. Bowlegs from rickets may also call for medication or nutritional therapy.
How Does Surgery Correct Severe Cases of Bowlegs?
Orthopedic specialists generally reserve surgery for cases of bowlegs most likely to cause long-term pain and functional problems despite conservative treatment attempts. Your orthopedic specialist will discuss your child’s condition and explain the preferred surgical procedure to you in detail.
The two main surgical approaches for treating bowlegs include guided growth and tibial osteotomy. In the guided growth approach, a small implanted metal appliance temporarily halts growth on one side of the shin bone. The other side of the bone has a chance to catch up growth-wise, eventually resulting in straightened legs.
A tibial osteotomy directly changes the shape of the shin bone. In this procedure, the surgeon cuts and reshapes the bone. Once the surgeon has corrected the shin bone’s alignment, metal hardware secures it in place so it can heal into its new configuration.
If you suspect that your child might struggle with bowlegs or a related underlying condition that raises the risk for bowlegs, Arizona Institute of Motion has your answers. Contact our orthopedic center today for an initial consultation with our caring team.