As a child matures and begins to walk, knock-knees can develop as he or she tries to maintain balance on weakened legs. When a knock-kneed child stands up, his or her knees touch each other, but the ankles do not. As the legs gain strength and start to mature, they generally straighten out and the condition disappears. Knock-knees may continue after the age of three or four, but by age five most legs straighten.
For adults, being slightly knock-kneed is a normal variation in alignment; many adults are somewhat knock-kneed. This is rarely a problem, and surgery or physical therapy is seldom undertaken to correct it. But severe knock-knees in adults can lead to problems: in a study of army recruits, for example, those with severe knock-knees were more likely to be injured in the intense activities of basic training.
Symptoms of Knock-Knees
- Knees that touch when you are standing (but ankles don’t touch)
- Excessive outward or inward knee angle that may cause pain
- Walking difficulty
What Causes Knock-Knees?
Knock-knees are common, often developing as part of the childhood growth process.
What If You Do Nothing?
In children, the legs usually will straighten out as the child grows. However, if a case of knock-knees is severe or if it is still present at the age of five, medical attention is needed to prevent permanent problems.
Home Remedies for Knock-Knees
- In children, wait and watch. Knock-knees are common among children, and in most cases the legs will eventually straighten out. Medical treatment is seldom required.
- Use orthotics. For adults with severe knock-knees, orthoticsfoot supports, made of foam, leather, plastic, fiberglass, graphite, or some combination, that fit in your shoescan reduce the increased risk of exercise-related injury by correcting the structural imbalance.
In most cases knock-knees can’t be prevented.
Beyond Home Remedies: When To Call Your Doctor
Contact your physician if a child’s legs don’t straighten out or if a knock-kneed appearance develops in a child six years of age or older. Adults with knock-knees should consult an orthopedist or podiatrist if the condition is so pronounced that it causes pain or interferes with movement.
What Your Doctor Will Do
A careful examination will be performed to rule out conditions that tend to cause knock-knees such as juvenile arthritis and rickets. X-rays may be taken to determine the severity of the condition. For severe knock-knees your physician may recommend braces to be worn at night and special shoes.
Surgery may be a corrective option after the age of 10 for girls and 11 for boys if the braces and shoes aren’t able to straighten the legs. For adults the doctor may fit the patient with orthotic devices for the shoes to keep the feet from rolling inward excessively (pronating).
The Complete Home Wellness Handbook
John Edward Swartzberg, M.D., F.A.C.P., Sheldon Margen, M.D., and the editors of the UC Berkeley Wellness Letter
Updated by Remedy Health Media