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Genu Varum (Bowlegs): Understanding the Curve in Your Legs

Have you ever noticed your knees curving outwards, giving your legs the appearance of an archer’s bow? This common leg alignment is called genu varum, more commonly known as bowlegs. While it’s perfectly normal for young children to have bowlegs that straighten out naturally as they grow, persistent or severe bowing can sometimes indicate underlying conditions or require medical intervention. Let’s delve into the world of genu varum, understanding its causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment options.

Genu Varum (Bowlegs): Understanding the Curve in Your Legs

Causes of Genu Varum:

  • Physiological Bowlegs: Most babies are born with physiological bowlegs. This is caused by the natural position of the fetus in the womb and usually straightens out within the first two years of life as the legs grow and strengthen.
  • Vitamin D Deficiency: Rickets, a condition caused by vitamin D deficiency, can lead to softening of the bones, including the leg bones, causing them to bow outwards.
  • Skeletal Conditions: Certain skeletal conditions such as Blount disease, metabolic bone diseases, and genetic disorders can affect bone growth and development, leading to genu varum.
  • Trauma: Injuries to the growth plates of the thigh or shin bones can disrupt normal bone growth and cause bowlegs.
  • Obesity: Carrying excess weight can put additional stress on the legs, potentially contributing to bowlegs.

Symptoms of Genu Varum:

  • Knees curving outwards, with space between them even when the ankles are touching
  • Difficulty walking or running normally
  • Pain in the knees or ankles
  • Limping or clumsiness
  • Uneven leg length


Diagnosis of genu varum typically involves a physical examination by a doctor or pediatrician. X-rays may be ordered to assess the severity of the bowing and identify any underlying bone abnormalities.

Treatment Options:

  • Observation: For mild physiological bowlegs in young children, observation is often the recommended course of action as the legs usually straighten out naturally with time.
  • Vitamin D supplementation: Addressing vitamin D deficiency with supplements can help prevent further progression of bowlegs caused by rickets.
  • Bracing: In some cases, special braces may be used to gently guide the bones into a more aligned position.
  • Surgery: In rare cases of severe or persistent bowlegs, surgery may be necessary to correct the bone deformity.

Living with Genu Varum:

Most people with mild to moderate bowlegs can live active and fulfilling lives. Exercise and physical therapy can help strengthen the muscles surrounding the knees and improve joint stability. In some cases, cosmetic surgery may be an option for individuals who experience significant self-consciousness due to the appearance of their legs.


Do bowlegs always require treatment? 

Not always. Mild physiological bowlegs typically resolve on their own. However, if the bowing is severe, persistent, or causing pain or limitations, consult a doctor.

Can I prevent bowlegs in my child? 

Ensuring adequate vitamin D intake during pregnancy and early childhood can help prevent rickets-related bowlegs. However, some cases of genu varum are due to genetic or underlying skeletal conditions that cannot be prevented.

What are the long-term complications of bowlegs?

 Untreated severe bowlegs can lead to chronic knee pain, arthritis, and difficulty walking.

Is there anything I can do to exercise for bowlegs? 

Exercises that strengthen the quadriceps and hamstrings can help improve knee stability and alignment. However, consult a doctor or physical therapist for personalized exercise recommendations.

Remember, if you or your child experiences concerns about bowlegs, don’t hesitate to consult a healthcare professional for a proper diagnosis and appropriate treatment plan.

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