“Drawback of having bowlegs”
Most patients are usually taken by surprise when the doctor tells them they have bowlegs. They react as if it is impossible to have such condition at their age. “How is that possible?” is a typical reaction, while some conditions are severe. Worried they might be teased that a small kid can walk through their bowlegs!
Some patients try to find excuses like, “I was born with it.” or “Every time I wear shorts to play soccer, friends always tease me that my legs are not straight!”
This condition is inherited but there is nothing to be worried about. “Bowing” of knees or the technical term genu varum (genu = knee, varsus/varum = angles in) is part of the normal development of a person. It is the outward curvature (curved out or curving out) of the legs (x-shapedor o-shaped legs as described by some patients in Thailand) that causes separation of the knees when the ankles are close or in contact. The doctor needs to find out the severity of each patient’s condition though it really has serious consequences if left untreated.
1. The Consequences of Having Bowlegs
The cartilage at the surface of the joint, acts as a cushion between joints (medical compartment knee joint) deteriorates at a faster speed than normal because the body weight is not evenly distributed. When we walk (at normal average of 5000-8000 steps daily) the impact of vibration will be repeatedly concentrated at the inner side of both knees. Plus, as aging goes, the thigh muscle gets weaker. The cartilage cell at the contact point of knee joints cannot withstand this impact further and starts to break down and wear away. The wearing away of the cartilage will gradually increase, resulting in the tilting of the knee. The curving angle of the already tilted knee will increase more and more. The compression force on the inner-side knee cartilage then will also increase year by year. The vicious cycle goes on until the patient feels pain, later on seen with a swollen knee, and ends up with Knee Osteoarthritis in young adults.
2.The Physical Disadvantage of Bowlegs
When taking a walk, a bowlegged person needs to use more strength than people with normal legs. From the medical point of view, the Quadriceps Muscle (the muscle at the front of your thigh) is divided into four sections, and it is the main mover when you extend your knees. It is the thigh muscle that supports the knee joints to maintain a straight line. The gravity force against the body, which is so small, only needs little strength to lift up the leg ; it is easy to walk then. On the contrary, when the knees start pointing outward (bowlegs), more strength is needed to make a step. More thrust force builds up between the kneecap and the joint when the knee flexes in and out. This is one of the reasons why the bowlegged person is easily tired when taking long distance walks, coupled with pain around the kneecap at night.
3. Bowlegs have more chances of getting an inflamed tendon, resulting to chronic pain in the inner side of the knee.
The vibration force used in normal walking will get to the knee joint, and gets concentrated at the center, then moves into the inner side. The impact of the vibration, at this point is a lot more, than in people with normal legs. The force also collides with other surrounding parts. Aside from a deteriorating cartilage, it will also cause an inflammation of the tendon around the knee. The problem is very difficult to cure. This is why some people will have to continuously take painkillers for a long time. They might not be aware that taking painkillers cause side effects like stomach problems to the extent of having kidney failures.
4.Abnormality of Other Joints (Mal-alignment of other joints)
When the patient faces the mirror, we can see the tilted ankle line that is caused by the adjustment of the body to cope with the curving of knees outward. If the ankle is not corrected to normal plane, the patient will not be able to walk comfortably since the force of walking will thrust more onto the ankle that results in wearing away and degeneration of the ankle bones.
People with different races have different normal leg length. Asian leg length is usually shorter and bending out more. In Japan and Thailand, we often see people with the upper part of the body in good proportion but surprisingly with curved knees.
The bowlegs without any pain have no need for any treatment. However, treatment can be further discussed if patients find their leg appearance unsatisfactory or they are not that confident to wear short pants, skirts, or skin-tight jeans.
Example of the patients that have the operation to correct bowlegs, using MHTO techniques on the two legs at the same time.
The Drawback of having bowlegs Part 1
When do you need surgery for bowlegs? Part 2
Varus knee (bow-legged) correction in young adults Part 3
Types of Bowlegs and Operation Methods to Cure Part 4
The operation to correct bowlegs, knock-knees Part 5