How to Correct “Fake Bow Legs” aka False Curvature

When you first started looking into possible solutions for your knee problems, I bet you might’ve made the assumption you suffer from Genu Varum (aka bow legs). After all, it took a simple glance at the mirror to see your knees curved to the outside. In simple terms, they were bowed.

However, your problem is more than likely a less understood knee disorder called Genu Recurvatum – also known as false curvature or hyperextended knees.

Genu Varum or Genu Recurvatum?

To find out whether you suffer from legitimate bow legs or its close cousin, false curvature, take a look at the image below and compare it to your own body:

Comparison graphic between bow legs and false curvature (aka genu recurvatum)
Image composed with 3D anatomy app ZygoteBody

As you can see, when somebody suffers from Genu Varum, there is a severe gap between their knees when they try to stand up with their feet together. The root of the problem is located at the pelvis so the bowed “arch” starts at the very pelvis bone. Contact between the knees or thighs is pretty much nonexistent

Now, let’s take a look at Genu Recurvatum. In this case, the person’s knees and ankles CAN touch each other – or come really close to touching – but there is a gap at the shins that give it a sort of “curvature” (hence the name) or bowed leg look FROM THE KNEE DOWN ONLY.

I have to admit, I too thought for along time that I suffered from bow legs – when my real problem was actually false curvature.

So what causes False Curvature?

There are a few reasons for this knee disorder. It could a birth or congenital defect, maybe a sport injury that didn’t heal well, or perhaps a routine practice that encourages constant locking-out of the knee and forces it into hyperextension (such as yoga).

The most common though? Our old nemesis… anterior pelvic tilt (APT).

You see, when the pelvic tilts forward, it creates a “grid” misalignment at the knee joint as well. Your femur now doesn’t track properly over your tibia (shin bone), creating an imbalance.

The REALLY bad news is that when this imbalance is paired with internally rotated femurs (due to a lack of strong glutes because of APT), you end up with a perfect recipe for false curvature knees.

Genu Recurvatum side view
Image credit: Somastruct

Now, you may not necessarily experience pain when suffering from Genu Recurvatum. However, you may hear your knee popping and cracking quite often while moving around throughout your day.

Unfortunately, as time progresses, you may start feeling pain since the stabilizing structures (ie. cartilage and ligaments) in the knee get wore down at a much faster rate compared to a neutral knee.

False Curvature Correction

So now that you know you actually suffer from “false curvature” – aka Genu Recurvatum – and NOT bow legs, we are ready to tackle the problem.

You will follow a training program that will include several strengthening exercises, as well as some powerful stretches that will not only fight the problem at the root (anterior pelvic tilt), but also concentrate on bringing back your knee joint to a neutral position.

The keys for us here will be the following:

  • Strengthen your abdominals
  • Strengthen your glutes & hamstrings
  • Stretch your hip flexors
  • Stretch your lower back
  • Strengthen your calves

One very important thing I want to emphasize here: Strengthening your calves is CRUCIAL to combat false curvature. Due to the special tissue connection that join the calves and the back of the knee, focusing on resistance training for your calves is one of the most important things you can do to fight false curvature.

Calve insertions - false curvature correction

And you know another of the most effective ways to work your calves?

Simply WALK MORE.

By going outside (or on the treadmill at the end of your gym session) and walking for 30 minutes to an hour everyday, you will not only be fighting anterior pelvic tilt – but also strengthening your calves as well.

Conclusion

I hope I’ve shed some light for you about the differences between real bow legs and false curvature and – hopefully – cleared a lot of the confusion that is out there. And trust me when I say that it is 100% possible to correct either of these problems. It’s just a matter of choosing the right program and sticking with it.

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