What is genu valgum?
Genu valgum is the medical term for “knocked knees.” A child is considered to have this condition when the they are standing and the knees not only are pointing inwards but are also touching while the ankles are spread excessively far apart. Most of the time, this is just a natural part of all children’s development. In rare instances, the cause is due to certain diseases such as Rickets and Down Syndrome which may need additional medical attention.
Who gets it most?
Genu valgum is actually a part of normal growth for kids. It is most noticeable at the age of 3 and tends to correct itself by age 8. Most kids will have some varying degree at some point in their development.
What are the symptoms?
It is uncommon to see knee pain with knocked knees. However, a child with genu valgum will usually walk abnormally to compensate for the condition. They can also be seen standing with their knees touching.
How do we test/diagnose?
When a child comes in with knocked knees, a podiatrist will ask a series of questions about his/her health. An X-ray followed by a physical will aid in making the diagnosis. The examination may include testing range of motion, muscle strength, reflexes, and gait analysis.
How do we treat? Surgical/nonsurgical?
Observation is the first line of treatment. Routine visits to a specialist who will overlook the development of the child to make sure they are growing properly. If the condition persists past adolescence, corrective braces are employed to promote proper growth. Custom orthotics, though no curative, are helpful in taking stress out of the knees from overcompensation that may otherwise cause pain. In very rare cases, surgery is needed that involves cutting the bone to realign them in place. .
How do we prevent?
It is difficult to prevent a natural growing process. But in the rare instances that your child’s knocked knees are caused by a disease, it is best to treat them sooner rather than later when knocked knees become more problematic. Physical therapy can encourage limbs to grow in the proper alignment as well as custom orthotics which helps remove abnormal pressures in the knee caused by genu valgum.