Bowlegs and Knock-Knees

Toddlers’ legs often have a bowed appearance. In fact, many children have bowing of the legs until they are about two years old, then they’ll look knock-kneed until they are about six years of age. At times, children may not have straight lower legs until they are nine or ten years old.

Bowlegs and knock-knees usually are variations of normal, and require no treatment. Typically, a child’s legs will straighten naturally by the teen years. Bracing, corrective shoes, and exercise are rarely helpful, and may hinder a child’s physical development and cause unnecessary emotional stress. Rarely, bowlegs or knock-knees are the result of a disease. Arthritis, injury to the growth plate around the knee, infection, tumor, Blount’s disease (a growth disorder of the shinbone), and rickets all can cause changes in the curvature of the legs.

Here are some signs that suggest a child’s bowlegs or knock-knees may be caused by a serious problem:

  • The curvature is extreme.
  • Only one side is affected.
  • The bowlegs get worse after age two years.
  • The knock-knees persist after age seven years.
  • Your child also is unusually short for his age.

If your child fits any of these descriptions, talk to your pediatrician. In some cases, treatment, including referral to a pediatric orthopedist, may be needed.

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