Most bow-legged children recover on their own

Watching a baby grow is one of life’s greatest experiences, especially for first-time parents. It can also be an anxious stage for any parent on guard for signs of abnormal development. One of the most common concerns: is my baby going to be bow-legged?

It’s natural to wonder because most children are bow-legged as babies, according to Christine Caltoum, MD, a pediatric orthopedic surgeon with Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health. “The vast majority of the time, bow-leggedness is a normal part of development, and it increases in a child up to 18 months of age,” she says.

Here are some facts about bow-leggedness in children:

  • Children with bowed legs gradually improve until the legs straighten by the age of 2 or 2.5, but that’s only true when their condition is part of normal development--not related to genetics or underlying disease.
  • After 2 years of age, normal leg development may go in the other direction, and children can become progressively knock-kneed. Genu valgum or knock-kneedness peaks when children are 3 or 3.5 years old, and improves gradually until there is normal leg alignment at around 6 to 7 years of age.
  • At age 6 or 7, the adult lower leg alignment should be achieved. “It’s considered normal to have slight valgus at the knee, up to seven degrees in a girl and five degrees in a boy,” Caltoum says. “This allows for the weight bearing line to go right through the middle of the knee.”

In our next post, Dr. Caltoum shares risk factors for bow-leggedness—and how it can be treated. For an appointment with a physician specializing in pediatric orthopedics, call 317-948-2550.