I’m Bowlegged: Can Osteotomy Help?

I’m Bowlegged: Can Osteotomy Help?

Has anyone ever told you to sit up straight or not to slouch? Being mindful of your alignment improves your posture and reduces stress on your spine. However, proper alignment in your body goes further than that, especially when it involves your legs. 

If you have bowlegs, your legs bend outward at the knees, even if you stand with your ankles touching. Unfortunately, even the slightest change in how your bones line up can cause serious problems, so bowlegs can significantly increase your risk of mobility problems and chronic pain. 

Fortunately, you can correct alignment issues, like bowlegs. However, since these leg deformities involve your bones, it requires an osteotomy, which focuses on cutting and reshaping bones. 

In this blog, Dr. Eric E. Johnson explains why alignment problems like bowlegs cause issues and how osteotomy can help.

Why proper alignment matters

All the bones in your body fit together in a specific way, creating a complex support structure, like a scaffold. Having bones that meet in proper alignment maximizes movement and function throughout your body. It also reduces stress, strain, and pain on joints, especially in weight-bearing areas, like your legs.

When properly aligned, you can draw an imaginary line straight through three points in your lower body. This line starts at the ball of your hip, passes through the center of your knee, and ends in the center of your ankle. Experts refer to this line as “the mechanical axis,” and it reveals how your leg bears your body weight when you stand. 

Believe it or not, it puts significant wear-and-tear on your knee joint if the mechanical axis is only a few millimeters off-center, increasing your chances of joint and cartilage deterioration and osteoarthritis. 

If you have bowlegs, your mechanical axis can pass 15 millimeters or more off-center, putting you at significant risk of future complications.

Correcting bowlegs with osteotomy

Unlike sitting up straight to improve alignment problems in your spine, bowlegs require medical interventions. That’s because this alignment issue involves your knee joint.

Most babies have bowlegs at birth because of their position in the womb. However, their legs typically begin straightening out when they start standing and walking. Sometimes, a child doesn’t outgrow bowlegs or the condition develops from other syndromes, like Paget’s disease, fracture malunions, or osteoarthritis. Regardless of the cause of your bowlegs, an osteotomy can restore proper alignment.

During osteotomy, Dr. Johnson removes, shapes, or adds a wedge of bone near your deformed or damaged joint. When you have bowlegs, an osteotomy often includes adding a wedge of grafted bone to your inner shinbone, immediately below the knee. 

This process helps create lasting structural changes in your knee joint by rebuilding the area, improving function, and restoring limb alignment. 

What to expect from an osteotomy

When you have an osteotomy to correct bowlegs, you can usually expect a short hospital stay and several weeks of recovery while using crutches and undergoing physical therapy. Generally speaking, you can typically walk without supportive devices within 8-12 weeks and fully recover in 6-12 months.

Though this may seem like a lengthy recovery process, correcting bowlegs with an osteotomy can help you restore proper bone structure and avoid joint replacement surgery in the future.

Do you have bowlegs? Contact our office in the Westwood neighborhood of Los Angeles, California, to schedule a consultation with Eric E. Johnson, MD.

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