Knock knee, which can be referred to as genu valgum or knock knee deformity, or syndrome, is an incorrect misalignment of the legs and knees. It is a condition where the knees touch, but the ankles do not. The knees appear to push toward each other, and there is a wide gap between the feet. This condition is most frequently seen in young children and usually goes away without treatment, but it may also persist to adulthood when the condition does not resolve itself.
This condition mostly affects children (3-6 years old) and would likely have corrected itself by the time they are 7 years. In rare cases, however, the condition progresses to adolescence. In some other cases, older children or adults may develop this condition due to an underlying illness or metabolic condition. Meanwhile, in the cases where genu valgum does not resolve itself or develops later in life, a formal treatment may be needed to remedy it. In most cases, this condition cannot be prevented. However, in instances where an underlying illness causes it, if the illness is diagnosed and treated, genu valgum can then be stopped from developing.
What causes knock knee?
Knock knees can be caused by various issues, which can arise from a developmental or congenital issue. An infection or tumor can cause it, and it can also be caused by trauma injury. Some of the causes include:
- Growth plate injury
- Arthritis in the knee
- Physical injury or trauma
- Kidney failure
- Metabolic diseases
- Congenital issues
- Fractures that do not heal properly
What are the symptoms of knock knee?
The most common and obvious symptom of this condition is the clear observed separation of the feet and ankles when the knees are together. As the person also tries to compensate for the gap in the knees, other symptoms arise, like change in gait, limping, problems with balance, and pain in the hips, knees, feet, and or ankles. Other symptoms may include:
- Knee instability
- Stiff or sore joints
- Progressive knee arthritis in adults
- Issues with the aesthetics of their legs
An individual may also have some other symptoms from the condition that is causing the knocked knee.
How is knock knee diagnosed?
This is usually done by physical examination and taking of a detailed medical history by a doctor. The doctor also enquires about any pain and the location, frequency, and severity of the pain. The doctor will also examine the knee alignment when the individual is standing, the gait of the person, and even the length of the legs. In some cases, an X-ray or an MRI is required in order to examine the bone structure of the patient’s legs. The doctor also evaluates the primary cause of the knocked knees in order to determine if the handling of an underlying issue would resolve the condition.
How is knock knee treated/corrected?
The treatment or resolution of this condition generally depends on the cause and the severity of the condition. Some of the treatment options may include:
It is usually employed when it is determined that an underlying condition causes the knock knee. The medication is usually directed at the underlying cause to eliminate it to correct the leg alignment. Supplements may also be used as part of the treatment plan.
Weight loss is recommended when the individual is carrying excessive body weight, which can contribute to the condition. This is because too much weight puts a massive strain on the legs and knees, especially which can cause a knock knee condition to worsen severely.
These are inserts that are placed in the shoes to help in correcting an individual’s gait or the manner that their foot strikes the ground when they walk or run. This may also be especially helpful to people with knock knees that have one foot longer than the other. Splints or braces may be recommended for children in addition to orthotics. These are meant to guide the bones so that they grow in the correct position.
This is usually a last resort treatment of choice for an individual with knock knees. It is usually reserved for severe knock knees and in cases where other methods do not show any positive effects. In children, the procedure used is called guided growth surgery. In this method, a surgeon inserts a small piece of metal into the child’s knees; this metal plate helps the bone to grow in the correct direction. After the bones have been correctly aligned, another surgery is done to remove the metal plates.
In adults, the procedure is called an osteotomy, which is quite similar to guided growth surgery. This procedure involves a surgeon inserting a metal plate into the knee. This plate is used as a permanent brace to keep the knees aligned. In very rare cases, a doctor may recommend a complete knee replacement, and a correctly aligned artificial knee will resolve the knock knee.
What are some of the exercises that can help resolve/correct knock knees?
Some studies indicate that exercise may help in strengthening the muscle of the legs, and this may, in turn, improve posture and balance in individuals with knock knees. An individual should also consult with their doctor in order to determine the correct exercise to embark on. The doctor, with the aid of a physical therapist, will be able to determine the type of exercise that may be helpful or which to do depending on the gait and symptoms. Some examples of resistance and strength exercises that may be helpful include:
- Side lunges
- Lying abduction
- Wall squat
- Single-leg band stretches
- Leaning ankle band stretches
- Exercise band squats
However, while many cases of knock knee are due to muscle weakness, some may be caused by underlying structural and skeletal differences. Individuals with this as the cause of their condition may observe that some of the exercises may cause knee pain. When pain is noticed, the individual should cease all the exercises immediately.