The term bowlegs describes a condition in which someone’s legs appear to bend outward — or the knees don’t touch — when the ankles are together.
People of all ages can have bowlegs, but it’s common to see this in infants because of their cramped position inside the womb. However, this alignment issue often corrects itself once they start to stand and walk. But, when their legs still appear bowed after 24 months, or they seem to worsen, it’s time to speak with an expert.
Other causes of bowlegs include:
- Blount’s disease: an abnormally formed shin bone
- Paget’s disease: a metabolic condition that causes weak bones
- Dwarfism: a bone growth disorder
- Rickets: softened, weakened bones from vitamin D deficiency
- Bone fractures that don’t heal properly
- Lead or fluoride poisoning
- Bone dysplasia or bones that develop abnormally
Whether you have a child with bowlegs or experience the condition yourself in adulthood, Dr. Eric E. Johnson can help. Here’s why you shouldn’t ignore this problem and how an osteotomy can restore alignment.
The problem with bowlegs
Bowlegs can vary in severity, but they all share the same issue: incorrect leg alignment that runs from the hip to the ankle.
When a leg is properly aligned, you can draw a straight imaginary line from the ball of the hip joint through the center of the knee to the center of the ankle. This alignment plays a crucial role in how each joint bears weight when you move, especially the knee. It’s known as the mechanical axis.
Bowlegs disrupt this balance because the knees don’t line up along this imaginary line. Instead, their bowed appearance puts added strain on their knees, leading to pain, instability, increased deformity, and arthritis.
And you don’t need to have severe alignment issues to experience these issues — even a few millimeters of misalignment can lead to problems down the road.
Signs of bowlegs
In many cases, the most obvious symptom of bowlegs is visual. Mainly, the knees don’t touch when standing with feet and ankles together. This appearance can make some people sensitive or embarrassed about how their legs look.
Other signs of the condition include:
- Less range of motion in the hips
- Problems running or walking
- Hip or knee pain
- Knee instability
Fortunately, Dr. Johnson can correct these issues by performing an osteotomy that realigns the leg bones and restores function and structure to the knee.
How osteotomy treats bowlegs
Dr. Johnson often uses different types of osteotomy procedures to correct bowlegs, depending on the type and severity of your deformity.
During an osteotomy, Dr. Johnson cuts and reshapes bones in the leg to restore alignment. Then, he stabilizes the bones with internal or external fixation, like plates, screws, nails, or circular frames.
In most cases, Dr. Johnson can correct bowlegs by treating the tibia — or shin bone — alone. However, some treatments require an osteotomy in both the tibia and the femur (thighbone). If your bowlegs led to different leg lengths, Dr. Johnson can correct this issue during your surgery as well.
Osteotomy procedures for bowlegs may seem daunting, but they’re often minimally invasive, internal fixation devices can be quite small, and they come with relatively quick recovery times. In fact, you can usually start bearing some weight immediately after your procedure.
Dr. Johnson can provide personalized recommendations on the best osteotomy methods for you based on your bowleg deformity. Regardless, you can expect your procedure to deliver lasting improvements, including less pain, better leg mechanics, and easier walking. Plus, it can help you avoid severe knee damage, which could require a total knee replacement in the future.
Do you have bowlegs? Schedule a consultation with Eric E. Johnson, MD, in the Westwood neighborhood of Los Angeles, California, to learn more about your treatment options today.