Knock knees: Causes and Treatment

Skeletal deformities are one of the most common problems in children and adolescents of the present times. While some of these problems are acquired by birth, others develop during the formative years of a child. There may be different factors that lead to these deformities, but whatever the causes may be, if the skeletal deformities aren’t treated during the early childhood years, they may continue into adulthood and become a permanent problem and may or may not be cured further. One such common problem that is seen in many children and even adults is the knock knee problem.

What is Knock Knee?

Most people may not be aware of the term knock knee, even though they may have seen such cases before. Well, for those who aren’t sure what is knock knee, here is a simple explanation. Knock knee is a condition in which the knees of a person standing touch each other, but the ankles do not. In fact, the ankles remain quite far from each other, thus forming a sort of outward bend at the knees. This type of deformity in the legs is scientifically referred to Genu Valgum and is usually seen in children and adolescents and when untreated, may also be found in adults.

When a child is born, the muscle-skeletal system remains quite underdeveloped and thus, weak. Naturally, when a baby stands up on its weak legs, the legs remain in a bow shaped condition (ankles touching, but knees wide apart) initially. This is a normal condition and persists till the baby is about 2 years old.

After that, the muscle-skeletal system strengthens gradually, but not enough to carry the weight of the body is a straight posture. And this is when knock knees are usually seen. There is no need to be afraid if your child has knock knees between the ages 2-4. It is quite common to very young kids. However, after the age 4, children gradually start to stand straight and uphold a firm body structure, quite like an adult. Though a few kids may start this development somewhat late, yet by the age of seven, they must be able to stand straight like any other adult, without any signs of knocked knees.

Moreover, during the developmental years, the condition of knock knees may not be too pronounced. Some kids may have a slight outward alignment of the ankles, while for some, one of the knees may be knocked, while the other may remain straight while standing.

The causes of knock knees

Knock knees are a common occurrence amongst children during their developmental years as the body posture gradually develops. The weak and developing skeletal system during the formative years is the main reason behind this and isn’t much of a concern. But if the child still has knocked knees after the age of 7 and into adolescence and adulthood, it is usually considered as a skeletal deformity and the main knock knee causes can be as follows,

Improper nutrition

Nutritional deficiencies during the initial years of growth are an important factor that can cause knocked knees in adults. Suffering from diseases like scurvy, rickets, osteomalacia, etc. during the early ages is a sign of poor nutrition that can severely impair the growth of bones in the child and this can give rise to bone deformities in the limbs like knocked knees.

Infections

Infections like osteomyelitis, when left untreated or improperly treated, can damage the bones and cause deformities in the knee.

Injury

Injuries during the early periods are common, but care must be taken that they aren’t serious and are immediately treated. Severe injuries to the skin bone during the developmental age may impede the growth of the shin bone that is responsible for the proper growth of the lower limbs. This may lead to knocked-knees, though only in the injured leg.

Genetic problems

Sometimes, knocked knees may be also caused due to rare genetic disorders and anomalies that aren’t usually detected before birth.

Knock Knee in Adults

Though knocked knees in children of age 1-4 may be a very common factor, they gradually become a matter of concern as the child grows up. If the problem doesn’t naturally cure itself during the adolescent period, then it is a matter of serious concern as curing knock knee in adults isn’t quite easy and the person may have to suffer life-long unless he or she opts for a surgery.

Naturally, it is very important that care is taken in the initial phases and the condition isn’t allowed to get worse. Moreover, there are a few other things to take care of. Apart from the knock knee causes mentioned above, growing adults may develop knocked knees due to the following reasons,

  • Injuries during the childhood that weren’t treated properly may lead to Genu Valgum in adults at a later stage.
  • Also, excessive weight and obesity that affects the gait of a person may be the cause of knock knee in adults.

How to Fix Knock Knee?

Since this condition commonly occurs in children, no major step is initially taken and the best that you can do is wait and find out how the developmental years actually turn out to be. If the deformity shows signs of going away with age, then there isn’t much to worry about.

However, if the problem persists, the following steps or treatments may be followed,

  • Children may be suggested to wear night braces that will support the legs and help in correcting the posture.
  • Nutritional deficiencies have to be eliminated to ensure proper bone growth. If the bones and joints of the lower limbs are infected or damaged, steps must be taken for the treatment of the same.
  • Weight problems and lifestyle issues have to be corrected.
  • Physiotherapy may also be a solution as regular sessions will help to strengthen the muscles and arches gradually, thereby giving better support to the bones to remain straight.
  • Exercises can also help fix knocked knees by strengthening and re-aligning them.
  • Extreme cases of Genu Valgum can be treated via surgeries only, which may either be guided growth procedure or osteotomy.

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