How to reduce pain due to bow legged in older adults

Last Updated on November 8, 2017

Being bow legged can cause knee pain and as one gets older, the pain affects a person’s mobility. The condition can be heritary or result from posture or muscle weakness.

Take a look at the photos below:

The old lady on the photo above had bow legs. As she pushed the trolley (which she also leaned on for support) from the marketing, she had walked with great difficulity and pain. Bow legs (genu vanum) has no known cure.

Even my mom has bow legs (it ran in her family as most of her sisters have it too)  since she was young but the condition progressed as she grew older and heavier.  The bow leg, coupled with constant walking and carrying heavy things (she would do her grocery in a market near her working place and had to take 2 buses back and then walked a distance from the bus stop back to our home) gave her constant pain. Sometimes the flare-ups got so bad that she had to seek for heat (infra red) treatments which only provided temporary relief. Once her right knee got treatment and felt better, the turn came with her left knee.

However, as the result of the radiotherapy treatment from her tonsil cancer, she had a drastic drop in weight (from 67kg to 45kg within a few months) because she could hardly swallow food and had to depend on fluids (even that was with great difficulities). Today she had even lost more weight and as the result of being light-weighed, she said that she knew the pain from the bow legged is still there- but it is dormant and did not flare up because the weight did not put undue pressure on her knees and calf muscles.

My mom shared that for those who are having knee pain due to being bow legged, it is important to shed excess weight. At the same time, one should remain physically active. For example, the occupational therapist who I bought my mom to told me that my mom had tight tibialis muscles and he correctly predicted that my mom would have disliked walking. However, my mom is always active either in the kitchen, garden or tending her pets. Doing work that she enjoys helped to shift her attention from her legs.

I have seen an elderly lady suffered so much pain that she cannot walk more than a few steps without needing to sit down as her pain was intense. It affected her quality of living and she was not able to look forward to her golden retirement after a lifetime of hard work and physical labor to bring up her children. Her son is really rich but he felt sad that he could help her with her pain.

Before the condition reaches an unbearable state, it is best to take some precaution and meaures to improve the condition. This includes:

1. Going for traditional therapies such as acupuncture (to clear meridian blockages) and massage (preferably by those who are experienced in massage to reduce pain or clearing meridian blockages).

2. Bow legged is also caused from muscle imbalance. One can also seek advise from physical therapist and occupational therapist on exercises and stretches one can do to help. Some muscles have to be strengthened (using resistance training) while some needs to be stretched as they are too tight.

3. Watching one’s diet as certain types of food and drinks can aggreviate joint pains and arthritis. It is a traditional belief but don’t bathe after the sun sets and wear clothings to cover the knees always (don’t wear shorts at night).

4. Taking up tai chi, chi kung (qi kong) and wai tan kung (dan kung).  These exercises are really really beneficial- I cannot emphasize enough. There are many documented cases that those who perform these exercises regularly and correctly are able to reduce the pain they are feeling. These exercises regulates chi movement in the body – even though their movements are slow and gentle, they are very effective in regulating internal circulation- improving nutrients and toxins removal from the body. These exercises would not reverse the condition, but done correctly, they can prevent the pain from getting worse.

5. Finally, as mentioned earlier, weight control is very important to ensure no undue stress is placed on the knees which would aggreviate the condition. Which one does one wants: pain from weight gain, or restrain from a favourite high caloric food? The pain is just not worth it for something that gives us momentarily gratification but is nothing appealing at all as it comes out from our other end.

If your parents start to suffer knee pain as the result of being bow legged, the condition would get worse of nothing is being done about it. Eventually the pain and stiffness would cause the person to limit or move with postural imbalance (in an attempt to try to reduce the pain).  The person may also give up moving and prefer to sit or move around with aids such as a wheelchair.

Therefore, act as early as possible. The earlier the prevention starts, the more effective it would be.


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