Genu varum (also called bow-leggedness or bandiness), is a deformity marked by medial angulation of the leg in relation to the thigh, an outward bowing of the legs, giving the appearance of a bow. It is also known as bandy-leg, bowleg, bow-leg, and tibia vara. Usually there is an outward curvature of both femur and tibia. "Genu varum" is distinguished from Blount's disease because it involves both the femur and the tibia, while Blount's disease affects only the tibia with no femur involvement.
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08/13/2009: Tahiti from Monroeville, Pa: "Is there anything that a person can do or take, which is natural, to help cure bowlegs. I have been bowlegged all of my life and it seems to be getting worse with age. I am in my late fifties. Any and all information will be greatly appreciated!"Replies
[YEA] 09/06/2009: Lisa from Thousand Oaks, Ca replies: "Hi Tahiti,
In my experience, I have corrected bow-legged people through Pilates. It has a lot to do with muscle weaknesses. Mostly, it has been young people- under 21 but I have seen one of the women I work with and have worked with for quite a few years completely correct her bow legs and she is in her mid- 40's. Mind you, you must be consistent with the work. I have been a ballet dancer all my life and have taught for 25 years now both ballet and Pilates. At any rate, you can purchase a Pilates ring and use that by squeezing it between your legs. There are various exercises you can do with it that can help. Perhaps you can find Pilates on the internet and see it being used. The main thing is that you must strengthen the muscles on the inner thighs because that is the imbalance causing the problems in your ankles and knees. Think of exercises to strengthen that area. I hope this information helps you."
09/06/2009: Tahiti from Monroeville, Pa replies: "Lisa, thank you so much for your reply. I have heard about Pilates, but never thought that it could be a remedy for correcting bowed-legs. I am most certainly going to get the ring and try it. What have I got to lose! ps-this is the best medical site that I've ever been on. Mad kudos to the inventors of this site and to everyone who has something positive to add!"
06/24/2011: Lady from Liverpool, Uk replies: "Hi I'm just wondering if using the Pilates ring made any difference to your legs?"
06/24/2011: Lisa from Thousand Oaks, Ca, Usa replies: "I have successfully turned bowed- legs around w/ a Pilates circle on others- a couple were grown women!"
07/20/2011: Jay from Cedar Lake, Indiana replies: "Which Pilates ring would you recommend? Could you possibly list some of the exercises as well? Thanks."
07/24/2011: Lisa from Thousand Oaks, Ca, Usa replies: "I would suggest a metal type Pilates ring. Stott Pilates makes an excellent one in two different sizes. I have noticed the ones in sporting goods stores are cheap and made of a type of plastic. Quite honestly, I think my dancers could break them! Anyway, I don't know if there are others that make the metal type. As for exercises, basically you just need to squeeze it and hold and strengthen all the inside muscles of the legs. That is how I have seen results though I do many types of exercises w/ the circle. You can find videos of using the circle as well. Hope this helps."
07/25/2011: Jay from Cedar Lake, Indiana replies: "Thank you so much Lisa. I greatly appreciate it. Sorry to be a pain, but do you have your clients perform a specific duration for the exercise?"
06/11/2012: Missy from Makati, Philippines replies: "Hi Lisa, I am just curious on which part of the leg will I squeeze using the ring? My upper or lower leg? And how will it correct the curves of my legs? I would really appreciate your answer. And lastly, how long will it take before I can see results? Im sure all other people are eager to know how to correct bow legs. Thanks and hope to hear from you."
06/17/2012: Sophie@oc from Irvine, Ca, United States replies: "This is for Lisa of Thousand Oaks: Hi Lisa, When you say it may have a lot do with muscle weakness, how exactly does using a Pilates ring help change the position and structure of bow legs to become more normal looking? My problem isn't exactly bow legs but with my upper legs, where the legs join the pelvic/hip bone. My upper legs look strange because I look like I have saddlebags but in actuality, the outer bones seem to stick out and there isn't all that much muscle/fat on them so it's not just a matter of losing some fat or toning up. I was wondering, if this too, may be a problem with just my muscles being "weak"? Would pilates help to gently and gradually move my leg bones into the proper position if it indeed a problem of just weak muscles?
Thank you in advance!"
06/17/2012: Lisa from Thousand Oaks, Ca, Usa replies: "Hi Sophie, In answer to your question, I use a pilates circle quite effectively when I am training all my dancers as well as women who would just like to experience more fitness. Many "problematic areas" can be corrected with Pilates exercises but the circle just helps intensify the workout as well as make them even more effective.
The issue you are having could be that you have just lost a lot of muscle tone in that area. There are many exercises for your entire body that can be done with the pilates circle. A suggestion for you would be to go on youtube and just type in pilates circle and many instructional videos will come up. You can then choose which ones you'd like to view.
Another suggestion would be to go to balancedbody.com and then click on Community at the top. It will take you to the page where you will see podcasts. They have a tremendous amount of instructional videos you can view, all very well done. Actually you might want to go here first since these are top people in this field giving instruction.
I hope this helps you. If you have any other questions, just let me know! Lisa"
06/23/2012: "Lisa, thank you so much for taking the time to give me a response! I am 36 and I always knew something was strange about my lower body and these "saddlebag bones" are definitely one of them. The best example of how my sides look when you are looking at straight at me is Kelly Clarkson. She has lumpy looking saddlebag like protrusion on both sides but it's hard to tell if it's just excess flesh padding or if she's like me, just mostly bones sticking out.
I'm totally going to check out the Pilates ring and the videos you suggested! Thanks again Lisa!"
06/23/2012: Lisa from Thousand Oaks, Ca, Usa replies: "Hi Sophie, I'm so glad to be of help. What you are describing can totally be corrected with Pilates. Also, if you have the funds, you can find Pilates classes. Just look for good instructors. There is a lot of Pilates available in Irvine.
I really do hope you take the time to look at the videos. There is some very valuable information in them which can help correct many different issues. I have seen bodies completely transform through Pilates! Best in your quest, Lisa"
06/24/2012: K. Leg from New York City, NY replies: "Lisa, thank you very much for the advice and suggestions. One question: how long should my exercise with the pilates ring take? 20 minutes, 30? What is the length of time you normally give your students? Thank you for reading."
06/24/2012: Lisa from Thousand Oaks, Ca, USA replies: "Hi K. Leg, You should be able to accomplish a significant amount of exercise in 30 min. I wouldn't go beyond that or you will then start to find reasons not to exercise at all! Unless of course, you do fall in love with it! Still, that should be enough to get you fit. My students do about 25 minutes of intense core work/ leg work to prepare themselves for our ballet class. I started requiring this of all my dancers about 8 years ago because I noticed how much quicker it got them to where I needed them in order to achieve the most in their ballet effort, without any injuries!
What I would suggest is that you learn a base of exercises so that you know them and have them at your fingertips and enough variety that you don't get bored with it. There is plenty of video available where I pointed you. I find they talk too much but I have been doing this work since I was 17 so perhaps it's because I already know what they're trying to achieve and I don't need the detailed explanations. A novice may not feel the same way I do.
Anyway, once you've learned a variety of pilates exercises you will have a much to choose from. Also, if you want to, you could just order a pilates basic mat exercise video from the place I told you about. It covers everything and once learned, takes 20-30 minutes easily.
I hope this helps you. I love what Pilates does for people and I know you will quickly see the results providing you put in the work. Best to you, Lisa"
06/25/2012: K. Leg from New York City replies: "Lisa, Thank you, once again. Another question: How long did it take your dancers to correct their bow-legs through pilates? Did it take a couple of weeks, or a few months? Thanks for reading."
06/25/2012: Lisa from Thousand Oaks, Ca, Usa replies: "Hi K. Leg, My answer to that would have to be, it varies. It depends on age, severity, commitment to working on it. Too many factors to give an actual time frame. I don't know your age, nor your severity so I couldn't give you an answer. I would just say to focus on the work and learn to enjoy the process. That's the advice I give all my students whether kids or adults. I tend to be a goal-oriented person but I also enjoy the process of reaching that goal otherwise, what's the point to life?! I also find that in the process on whatever journey we take, we learn so much and sometimes the path takes us into new places we would never have discovered otherwise!
I encourage you to just do it! As the saying goes. Wishing you the best on your journeys, Lisa"
07/07/2012: "Lisa, may I ask you one last question? I know this discussion is about bowed legs but I was hoping you could help me with this one too if you wouldn't mind so much: I have kind of big, bulky calves and I think part of the reason this is is because my legs never really got the chance to develop properly growing up. My lower legs probably wouldn't be considered bowed but the area where the ankle bone joins the lower leg bones have this unusual noticeable curve and I have noticed that almost every female I see who has big calves almost always seem to have this lower curving of the connective joing area, even though the rest of their body is slim or average (as I am). My sisters who don't have bulky calves have a straight line from the foot to the ankle to the knee but mine is different. I am almost certain a contributing factor to my mis-development was from a lack of calcium (stopped drinking milk when I finished 5th grade), sunshine, and on top of not getting those, lots and lots of coke drinking and candy from 6th grade on.
The curvature that I am talking about seems more the way the bone is shaped, rather than something I can change by strengthening the muscles around it. I have done lots of internet research on how to reduce the bulkiness, (and most of it seems to be muscle although I do not deliberately work my leg muscles). Something I read from a famous exercise instructor to reduce this actually made them even bigger and look so much wider so I stopped. It was an exercise that you stood away from the wall keeping one leg muscles flexed and keeping your balance by having your hands on the wall. Toe raises were a bad idea as well. My calves went back to their prior state eventually when I stopped these exercies but I was still stuck with ugly calves that kept me from exposing my legs in shorts, dresses, leggings... so my whole lower body has always been a source of frustration for me.
As you know from my earlier post, I have issues with saddlebag-like protrusion which I am going to try to fix with the Pilates ring, watching the youtube videos you suggested and I'm hoping you could maybe address this one too!
Sorry this is so long-winded but I thought since you are a Pilates expert, maybe you have experience or thoughts on why leg calves can be bulky and what to do about it.
I'm not sure if I am allowed to post a link but it is here that I found a picture of someone's legs (calves) that look pretty similar to mine, except mine are smaller overall but still big for someone my stature. Please scroll down and take a look at the picture in post 96 to get an idea what my lower legs look like. There was some talk of having had surgery but that isn't something I am likely to consider, given the risks.
Many thanks, you've given me some hope about how to combat my "saddlebag" dilemma. : -)"
07/07/2012: Lisa from Thousand Oaks, Ca, Usa replies: "Hi, of course, I'm happy to answer your question. I have looked at the picture you gave as an example. I have to tell you, your calves are nothing to be embarrassed about. Mine actually look similar to the picture and I am 5'2" as well. As a trained ballet dancer, it is not unusual for us to have very well-developed calves but, instead of being embarrassed of them, we are quite proud of them. It is from all of our training on releve and doing pointe work. They show what we have accomplished. And we keep our weight down so we are thin, but not lacking muscle. You'll notice all ballet dancers legs look similar to this. I guess this is a fine example of, point of view is everything! This may not be something you want to hear, but I think you should be proud of your well- developed calves. This is also inherent to your particular body type. Your sisters just have different body types. I don't think it's due to "mis-development".
Anyway, sometimes we just have to accept our God-given body and make the best of it. When I train my girls they go through puberty and their bodies change. They all are unique and I tell them so when they complain or are unhappy that they don't look like so-and-so, etc. I want them to develop healthy self-esteem, not pine over what they don't have! Instead of complaining, make the best of what you do have, I tell them. And then we go to work from a positive place rather than from a weak and lacking attitude.
Think of it this way, every flower is different and unique. We look at each one and admire their beauty rather than look at the tulip and say, "Well, you don't look like the rose- how sad!" I think all of my girls are beautiful and then we go to work to be the best dancers we can. So, I say to you, accept your body and then go to work to make it the best it can be! Congratulations too, on effort to move forward! Lisa"
07/21/2012: "Lisa, I can't thank you enough for being ever so helpful and supportive in my quests for advice for my problem areas. You are right that I should just learn to accept my calves the way they are and I really do want to get to the point where I won't care so much about how they look and be able to wear shorts or skirts someday because it's torture during the hot summer months!
I bought and received the Stott pilates ring! I worked on squeezing them with my thighs one night and boy, I could hardly muster the strength to squeeze but I did, for a good while in one sitting. The insides of my thighs were sore the next day and for a few days after so I decided to not do any until the soreness went away. The next time I started my squeezing, I could tell I had gotten stronger! It was definitely easier to squeeze this time around so just that one workout I did apparently strengthened my muscles which is awesome. I didn't see any visible reduction in my flabby thighs but I know I will in time so I am very excited but even more excited to be correcting my "saddlebag bones"!
Thanks again Lisa. Hopefully I will be updating you with my great progress in the future!"
07/21/2012: Lisa from Thousand Oaks, Ca, Usa replies: "Hi again, I'm so glad to hear you got your Pilates ring! It is such an effective tool and can be used in so many ways- as you experienced the immediate results in just one use. Keep going with it, you will be glad you did. You will quickly grow in strength and change your body shape by using it. If you can give yourself just 10 minutes a day using it in various ways, you will reap the benefits right away. Have you been able to find the videos I pointed you towards?
Also, good for you for learning to accept your God-given body. We can only make the best of what we were given not resent it! That will never help. I look forward to hearing updates on your progress!
The best to you on your quest, Lisa"
08/04/2012: Lisa from Thousand Oaks, Ca, Usa replies: "Hi there! So glad to hear you have started using your Pilates circle. Bravo for you! I would give you a couple of suggestions to help hasten the progress. The first is to put your conscious awareness on the area you want to target and focus on those muscles working. The reason being, other muscles could be doing the bulk of the work which is still good but not necessarily the area you're trying to "wake up" as I call it. The fact is we all have muscle it's just that some people consciously work their muscles a certain way to achieve fitness and sculpting. I say that because that's how I work with my dancers and others whom I've helped get in shape. So, as you're squeezing that circle engage those butt muscles.
Another suggestion, instead of sitting on a stool, lie on the floor and with bent knees, put the circle just above your knees. Now squeeze it and lift your butt, squeezing it as well. Stay up like that while squeezing and then pulse your hips towards the ceiling. Do 20 pulses and then roll down. Repeat. Your results will be quicker, I assure you. I could give you a zillion but this is a good start! Again, good for you! Keep it up! Best to you, Lisa"
08/04/2012: "Hi Lisa! I did find some great videos on YT although I wonder which ones would be most beneficial to me for my specific target areas. I cannot wait to see my sides move in a bit so that I can see the sides look the way they should look - smoother and more streamlined looking, not ugly lumps sticking out that look out of place. Not a good look when wearing slim fitting pants. I am doing about 10 minutes a night of squeezing the circle with my thighs near the knees, just sitting on a step stool. I know I have become stronger because the first two times I did this, I was actually sweating which shocked me! Now, it's less of a challenge to do the squeezing and much longer to start feeling the sweat trickling down. I am a bit sad that I don't see any obvious difference yet but I know it's only a matter of time and I need to be patient.
So excited! Thank you Lisa!"
09/08/2012: Jacquie from Los Angeles, Ca, Usa replies: "@Lisa from Thousand Oaks, Ca, Usa -- Hi Lisa, Im wondering if its possible to schedule a few private lessons w/you on the weekend to see about improving my slight bow leg condition. I live in LA just outside DTLA, so realisticly speaking, I could only make it out to T. O on the weekend. I just want to be sure Im doing the exercise correctly to be successful in my quest. Best, J"
09/08/2012: Lisa from Thousand Oaks, Ca, Usa replies: "Hi Jacquie, I would be happy to work with you in Pilates. You could call my ballet studio at 805 494-8800 and leave me a message for me to get back to you. I'll wait to hear from you, Lisa"
10/31/2012: Battsy from London, Uk replies: "Hello Lisa I have bow leg especially around little above ankle. Those are too far away from each other. What kind of exercise help me to closer. Thank you very much."
10/31/2012: Lisa from Thousand Oaks, Ca, Usa replies: "Hi Battsy, I am not sure what you mean by bow legs above your ankles. You will need to explain a bit more. Pretty much, everyone has a space above their ankles. Bow legs usually refer to when the knees don't touch each other. Do you have spaces between your knees as well? If so, then I can help guide you. Are you familiar with Pilates? Let me know. Lisa"
11/02/2012: Battsy from London, Uk replies: "Hello Lisa I wanna show you my leg picture but I don't have your email address. Can you provide me your email address. Thank you, Battsy"
11/02/2012: Lisa from Thousand Oaks, Ca, Usa replies: "Hi Battsy, I really don't want to post my email address up here. If you can explain to me what your leg condition looks like and also how in shape you are, I can most likely help you. Are you familiar at all with Pilates? Also, in the thread this post is on, did you read through its entirety? I give suggestions on what to do for bow legs in Pilates and also websites one can go on to see video. Someone even posted a link for me to see a picture of legs similar to hers so I could help her. Did you look at that? Is it similar to what you are dealing with? I will wait to hear back from you. Wishing you well, Lisa"
11/03/2012: Battsy from London, Uk replies: "Thanks for quick reply Lisa. I understand email spam thing. I will describe my leg shape. My ankle bone joints to the lower leg curved way. You mentioned site picture. Mine is quite similar that lady's leg shape except I don't have much calves. Do you think if I do Pilates for while my those leg curves get straiter?
Pilates work for muscle strength and shape or shape for bone make them straighter? My English not well. Thanks again."
11/03/2012: Lisa from Thousand Oaks, Ca, Usa replies: "Hi Battsy, Well, it sounds like you need to do exercises to build your calves. And perhaps, exercises to strengthen the inside of the legs.Pilates incorporates many different exercise to help with both strength and shape of the muscles. You still have not said if you're even familiar with Pilates. Also, what kind of shape are you in? Have you exercised much, not at all, some, etc.? Here is a link for you to watch podcasts of professional Pilates instructors helping people so you can get an idea of what it entails. Of course some of them are using complex Pilates equipment but much can be accomplished with matwork and also simple equipment like the magic circle, a roller and therabands.
If you have further questions, let me know. Hope this helps. Lisa"