Knock knees are a very recognizable condition. It can cause some other physical problems, so it’s worth looking at treatments, preventions, and knowing when you should see a doctor.
While most adults will have outgrown knock knees long ago, some things can cause them to occur again later in life.
In this article, we’ll go into detail about what they are, causes and treatments for knock knees, and what to do to prevent them.
What Are Knock Knees?
Knock knees is a condition where your knee joints turn inwards, causing them to touch while you’re standing up straight or walking. Your feet and ankles stay apart, giving your legs an X-shaped appearance.
The medical term for this condition is genu valgum. This condition can affect people of all ages and usually affects both legs. But in some cases, it may only affect one knee.
It’s very common in young children between the ages of 3 and 5, as it’s part of the developmental growth stage.
As the children get older, the bones in the legs start to straighten out and most children will be able to stand and walk without their knees touching.
But there are some instances where knock knees either doesn’t resolve on its own or it develops later in your adult life.
The misalignment around the knees places excessive force on the outer side of the knee, which can cause hip and knee pain.
But if left untreated in adults, the excessive force can lead to further bone deformity, where you may also experience the following:
- Stiff or sore joints
- Reduced range of motion in hips
- Ankle or foot pain
- Difficulty walking or running
- Knee instability
- Knee arthritis
- Progressive knee joint degeneration
What if Knock Knees Don’t Develop Normally With Growth?
In some cases, knock knees may not improve during the developmental stage as a child. But you can also develop knocked knees later in childhood or as an adult.
This could be caused by an underlying condition—such as infection or disease—and in some cases may be associated with joint problems like rheumatoid arthritis.
With that being said, you may have a more serious form of knock knees that could require an evaluation by an orthopedic surgeon.
You should consider going to see your doctor or an orthopedic surgeon if:
- The inwards angle of your knee joints changes
- Your symptoms worsen
- Only have knocked knees on one side of your body
- Your stance is unbalanced
- You have difficulty walking
What Are the Causes?
While developing knock knees later in life isn’t very common, there are several factors that can cause the condition to develop. These include:
- Loose knee ligaments
- An injury or infection in your knee or leg
- Renal osteodystrophy
- Genetic conditions such as skeletal dysplasias or Ehlers danlos syndrome
- Metabolic bone disease, such as rickets
- Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis
What Treatments Are Available?
The best treatment plan for knock knees would depend on the severity of the condition and the underlying cause.
If your child or teenager hasn’t outgrown knock knees, then your doctor may recommend that they wear a brace. This will help to reposition the knees.
With that being said, if your child has persistent knock knees and they’re still growing, your doctor may then recommend Guided Growth surgery, also known as hemiepiphysiodesis.
This is a minimally invasive surgery where they insert small metal plates on the inside of the knees. This helps to straighten out the leg bones over a 12-month period. Once the bones are straight, the plates are removed.
In adults, if the knock knees are caused by an underlying infection, disease, or injury, then this would be treated first before any orthopedic correction is done.
If the knock knees in an adult is mild to moderate, your doctor may recommend physical therapy instead of surgery.
This will help to strengthen the surrounding muscles, which can help to realign the knees naturally and reduce the stress that’s placed on the knee joint.
However, if physical therapy isn’t successful or the knock knees are severe in an adult or adolescent where the bones are no longer growing, then your doctor may recommend a knee-realignment osteotomy to restore function to the leg.
This type of surgery uses plates to permanently keep your bones aligned. In adults who are 60 years and older, your doctor may recommend knee replacement surgery.
How Do You Prevent Knock Knees?
While knock knees are part of a child’s natural developmental stage, you may want to see your doctor if their legs don’t start to straighten out.
Your doctor will examine your child and then put a treatment plan together. Fortunately, you won’t necessarily have to stop your child from taking part in any physical activity.
In most cases, physical activity can help to realign the knees.
Adults, on the other hand, can take steps to prevent knock knees from occurring or getting worse if they already have them.
The first step would be to maintain a healthy weight, as excess weight will place your knees under more stress. This can worsen knock knees.
Strength exercises are a great way to stabilize your knees. Your exercise routine should include exercises that strengthen your hip muscles, hamstrings, quadriceps, calves, and feet.
These muscles all work together to stabilize and support your knees. By strengthening these muscles, you may be able to alleviate the symptoms and reverse knock knees.
You can include the following exercises into your daily routine:
- Leg raises
- Single-leg band stretches
- Side lunges
- Wall squat
- Clam shells
Start with just your body weight. As you progress with an exercise routine, you may add leg weights to make it more effective.
Make sure you are doing the exercises with proper form and not over-reaching, both in terms of your range of motion and the weight you can lift.
You can also add an orthotic or insert to your shoes for knock knees that can help correct any biomechanical anomalies and improve your foot and leg alignment.
Inserts for knock knees will help to correct your gait, alleviate leg pain, and improve and maintain the alignment of your patellofemoral joint.
If your knock knees are mild as an adult, you may want to speak to your doctor, especially if you participate in high-impact activities like running, soccer, tennis, or basketball.
This will help your doctor to come up with a treatment plan that’s best for you and allows you to stay fit while reducing any functional problems that are associated with knock knees.