Bow-leggedness is a physical condition in which the legs are bent outward slightly at the knee, giving the legs a characteristic ‘bow’ shape. You may have noticed that small children, below the age of three, are naturally bow-legged. This is due to the way the baby develops curled up in the womb. Also, babies’ bones are soft and made of softer cartilage at first, and gradually become bonier (ossify) as they grow older.
Normally, by the time a child begins to walk, the bones and joints have strengthened sufficiently that the bowing is only slight. As they grow more, the joints naturally straighten out the rest of the way.
This ossification happens normally for most people, but there are some instances in which the bone development is slow and thus the bones do not straighten out the knee joints – resulting in bow legs persisting into adulthood. This is most commonly due to a lack of Vitamin D during these formative years – which can give rise to a condition known as ‘rickets’.
Also, poor nutrition or poor general health during this time can prevent ossification, (bone hardening). Calcium is crucial for healthy bone development, so a diet lacking in sufficient Calcium and sunshine (or Vitamin D), can make bow-legs much more likely in older children.
Bow Legs in Adults
Adults only develop bow-leggedness after some kind of trauma to the knees. It may be mild but persistent stress on the joint or joints. So, there are certain activities which can give rise to bow legs later in life.
The most obvious example being horse-riding. The condition is much more common among jockeys, whether or not they had rickets as a child.
As you can clearly imagine, spending lots of time on a horse or pony, with the legs necessarily bowing around the animal’s body, can lead to the legs becoming bowed. Essentially, any activity which causes the legs to be held consistently in a slightly bowed way can lead to bow legs.
Injuries and Accidents
The final cause of bow-leggedness is accidental and comes from certain kinds of injuries to the leg. If someone sustains an injury to his or her knees, in particular where the thigh bone joins the knee joint, then the result can be bow-legs persisting even after the main injury has healed.
There is also a condition, more common in the developing world at present, called Blount’s disease. This is almost a separate condition since it is the actual bone of the shin that becomes bowed – not just the knee joint.
This can be treated by surgery. Unlike traditional bow-leggedness, which will normally correct itself as the child ages, Blount’s disease can simply get worse and worse leading to actual deformity if left untreated. The causes of Blount’s disease seems to be obesity and early walking, but it is a relatively new diagnosis and has not been extensively studied.
Bow legs do not affect a person’s ability to walk, in theory.
However, the outward bending of the knee can lead to uneven stress being placed on the knee joints. This means that bow-leggedness can cause the early onset of arthritis in the knees. The symptoms and the bow-leggedness may then begin to worsen. Also, if bow legs are uneven where one leg is more bowed than the other, this can lead to postural problems potentially affecting ankles, knees, hips and spine.
If You Have Grown Up With Bow Legs
The great news is you don’t have to resort to painful surgery.
There are natural exercises for correcting bow legs which have proven to be incredibly successful, and you can do them in the comfort of your own home.
Also, Sarah Brown has developed an exercise program specifically for adults that are suffering from bow legs, which includes important information on what NOT to do if you are in this situation.