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Starship Paediatric Orthopaedics

Public Service, Paediatrics, Orthopaedics

Bow Legs (Genu Varum)

In the first 12 to 24 months of life, bowed legs are often normal. The legs naturally bow outward and begin to straighten as the baby grows. By age four, it is common to see the child become knock kneed and then by age seven to ten the legs become straight again.

Bow legs often runs in families. In rare cases the bowing may be due to an abnormal growth plate at the top of the shin bone (tibia) at the knee, infection, or a specific medical condition. Your doctor will explain the cause to you. If the bowing is not equal on both legs or, if your child is older than 24 months, your doctor may want to take an x-ray of the legs. This will help decide if treatment is necessary. Very occasionally this condition may require treatment to prevent future problems.

What is the treatment for bowed legs?

The treatment will probably be simple observation. You may want to take a photograph of your child and then, several months later, take a second photograph to compare and to follow the straightening process. For the rarer causes of bowing, the treatment might be bracing or even surgery if the child is older.

Facts about bowed legs

  • Early walking does not always cause bowed legs
  • Bowing that occurs as part of development does not require bracing nor surgery
  • Bowed legs will not affect your child's ability to walk, run or play.
  • Sometimes bowing of the legs occurs if your child does not have enough vitamin D. Your family doctor can check this for you.

This page was last updated at 10:03AM on September 29, 2021.