In children with bowed legs, there is an outward curve to the lower legs. This creates a space between the lower legs when they stand with their feet together.
Bowed legs are very common in infants and toddlers, and they can become more noticeable when they start standing and walking. Some toddlers with bowed legs may also have turning in of the feet (in-toeing).
Children with bowed legs usually do not have difficulty walking, running, kicking, and playing.
In most cases, bowed legs are a harmless condition that can be diagnosed with an exam in our office and that will often correct over time without treatment. There is little evidence showing that braces, splints, or shoe inserts are helpful in correct bowed legs.
What Causes Bowed Legs?
When babies are inside the womb, their shinbones may have to “twist” slightly to fit the small space, which can cause both legs to take a bowed appearance. As children begin standing and walking, the bowed appearance may become more noticeable, especially around 18 months of age. Most cases of bowed legs self-resolve by the ages of 3-4 years.
Though rare, bowed legs may be caused by calcium or vitamin D deficiency (rickets), growth plate abnormalities, and certain underlying medical problems. In these cases, the child’s bowed legs will not improve on their own, may get worse, and can cause symptoms such as joint pain and discomfort with walking.
When Should I Worry?
Children under age 3 with bowed legs require no tests or treatments. Children who exhibit any of the following may require x-rays or a specialist referral:
• Only 1 leg has a bowed appearance
• The appearance of bowed legs isn’t improving or is getting worse after age 3
• Bowed legs in teenagers
• Children with symptoms of joint pain or difficulty walking
If you have any questions or concerns about your child’s legs, you can always talk with your provider at your next Well Visit, or give us a call in the office anytime. We’re always happy to help.
Dr. Nikita Roy has been a Kids Plus Provider since 2019.