Genu Valgum – Causes and Treatment

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Also known as knock knees, genu valgum is a deformity of the legs where the knees turn inward while the ankles stay separated from one another.

This condition is often seen in small children by the time they turn 3 years old, and by the time the child turns 7 or 8 this lower leg deformity corrects itself without any form of treatment.

Types of Genu Valgum (Knock Knees)

There are two types of knock knees, My Knock Knee Fix explains.

The first is the most common one which is physiologic.

Physiologic genu valgum is part of the normal growth and development process that many children go through before they reach their adoloscents.

The second form of genu valgum (knock knees) is pathologic, which means that one or more underlying causes are responsible for the inward curvature at the knees.

Underlying Causes

A few of the most common underlying causes of genu valgum that could be responsible for the development of genu valgum past the age of 7 or 8 include:

Rickets

Rickets is a bone development condition that affects mainly children.

However, adults can experience the same type of condition which is known as osteomalacia.

A child affected with rickets will have soft or weak bones that lead to deformities such as knock knees or bow legs.

The main cause of rickets is a deficiency in vitamin D.

Obesity

Excessive weight can lead to genu valgum because of the extra pressure on the knees.

People who are obese or overweight put a lot of wear and tear on the tissue around the joints that connect the bones to each other.

Bone Infection

A bone infection such as osteomyelitis where bone inflammation causes the legs to bend inward.

Arthritis

There are many different types of arthritis, but the main two responsible for causing joint deformity such as knock-knees are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

When it comes to knock knees in adulthood, arthritis is the most common cause.

Other less common causes of genu valgum include metabolic disease, growth plate injury, fractures, and different forms of physical trauma.

Symptoms of Genu Valgum

The most obvious symptom of genu valgum is the separation between the ankles while the knees rub against one another.

Another symptom that can clearly be seen is the gait of the person with genu valgum.

People with genu valgum will sometimes have a limp when they walk or an awkward looking walk whenever they take a step.

Other common symptoms associated with genu valgum include the following:

  • Pain in the knee.
  • Pain in the ankles or even the hip area.
  • Joints around the knees feel a little stiff.
  • Problems with balance when walking or standing up straight.

If you go to a doctor to get a diagnosis the doctor will be on the look out for all of these symptoms.

Diagnosis

When getting a diagnosis for genu valgum the doctor will ask several questions to try and determine the cause of the deformity.

Along with asking questions the doctor will also examine the way you walk and how your knees align while standing.

In some cases the doctor may need to do an X-ray examination to take a deeper look into what could be causing this lower leg deformity, and the best way to treat it.

Genu Valgum Treatment

The treatment of genu valgum will really depend on the cause.

If you are only dealing with mild knock knees then a simple exercise routine could help fix the malalignment.

Exercises for Genu Valgum

When it comes to exercises to correct knock knees you have to focus on either strengthening weak muscles or loosening overly tight muscles.

The main muscles that would need to get strengthened or loosened would be your hip muscles or hamstrings.

The muscles in these 2 areas are usually the main causes for genu valgum in children past the age of 8 and some adults.

Some of the best exercises for genu valgum include:

Single-leg Band Stretches

This is one of the best exercises to stretch the muslces in your hips and fix genu valgum.

To do this simple stretch do the following:

  1. Start off by placing an exercise band around your ankle and then fix it around a stable object nearby.
  2. Now, while standing up straight begin swinging your leg to the side slowly.
  3. Next, once your leg has reached as far as it can extend you’ll want to hold this position for at least 5 seconds.
  4. After the 5 second hold begin to slowly bringing your leg down back to the starting position.

Repeat this lower leg exercise about 10 times and then switch to the other leg and repeat the steps above.

Kickbacks

Another great exercise for genu valgum is called kickbacks.

With this genu valgum exercise you’re strengthening the hip flexor muscles that will help straighten the mild inward curve at the knee.

To do this exercise do the following:

  1. Begin by standing up straight with your feet shoulder width apart.
  2. Now wrap an exercise band around your knees and begin to slowly lift one leg backwards and up.
  3. Hold this position for at least 10 to 15 seconds and then bring it back to the starting position.

Repeat this exercise at least 10 times and then repeat the steps above with the other leg.

Lunges

Lunges is one of the best exercises to strengthen weak muslces in your hips and legs.

This makes it one of the most effective exercises for knock knees.

To begin doing lunges do the following:

  1. First stand up straight and take one step forward. As you step forward make sure your hands stay at your hips.
  2. Now, once you step forward go ahead and bend your knees until they reach a 90 degree angle.
  3. Once the 90 degree angle has been achieved slowly bring your leg back to the starting position.

Do this knock knee exercise at least 10 times with both legs.

Surgery for Genu Valgum

If exercises such as lunges don’t help it means your genu valgum is not a mild case.

For more severe cases of genu valgum the only other option is surgery.

The type of surgery will depend on the age of the patient.

For small children whose bones haven’t fully developed yet the best type of surgery is guided growth surgery.

This is a minor procedure which involves placing a small plate inside the knee to guide proper bone growth.

Once the bones in the lower leg have grown into the proper alignment the plate is removed.

This type of procedure is only effective for younger people who haven’t fully grown into their body yet.

A surgery like guided growth surgery wouldn’t work for a full grown adult whose bones have already developed.

For an adult the best type of surgery is known as osteotomy.

This surgery will require the surgeon to make a cut in the knee area and remove a small piece of bone in order to realign your knees.

Osteotomy surgery is the best option for adults to realign their knees successfully.

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