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What Is the Difference between Valgus and Varus Deformity?

Valgus and Varus deformities refer to the misalignment of bones. Valgus causes an outward angulation at the joint, like knock-knees, while Varus results in an inward angulation, reminiscent of bowlegs. These conditions can affect balance, mobility, and joint health. Curious about how these deformities impact daily life or what treatments are available? Continue reading to explore the implications and solutions.
C. Daw
C. Daw

The terms valgus and varus are both related to each other, but they are opposite as well. For example in orthopedics, the varus refers to the inward bending of the distal segment of the bone or joint, whereas the valgus alignment is the outward bending of the knee. The deformities that can form in both the valgus and varus can cause serious complications with bending of the legs and knees. The varus is also called a bow legged condition while the valgus is known as being knock kneed. These alignments could cause severe consequences and may be the basis for the osteoarthritis in some cases.

A varus deformity causes the load bearing axis of the knee to shift towards the inside, which puts extra pressure on the legs and destabilizes the mechanical system of the movements of the legs and joints. If it gets serious, it could also contribute to difficulties in walking due to the soreness of the unnatural movements, especially in people who are overweight. A varus deformity increases the chances of osteoarthritis in these people, which does not mean that only overweight people at a higher risk for arthritis, it just means that their chances are much higher of obtaining it.

A varus deformity causes the load bearing axis of the knee to shift towards the inside.
A varus deformity causes the load bearing axis of the knee to shift towards the inside.

The other kind, which is valgus alignment, does the opposite of what the varus does. It shifts the load bearing axis of the knee outward, causing great pressure on the outer portion of the knee. Although a valgus deformity is not considered as destructive as the varus version, it still is very harmful and causes several defects. It has been shown to negatively affect the ligaments, subchondral bones and the articular cartilage. The chances of osteoarthritis are greater in both alignments; valgus and varus.

A varus deformity could contribute to difficulties in walking due to the soreness of the unnatural movements, especially in people who are overweight.
A varus deformity could contribute to difficulties in walking due to the soreness of the unnatural movements, especially in people who are overweight.

Both of these deformities can be extremely dangerous if they are not taken treated right from the start, and they can cause permanent damage to the ligaments and muscles around the joints. The valgus and varus alignments could be the basis for bone and structural problems within the knee, and common leg problems as well. In order to avoid the difficulties associated with valgus and varus deformities, try to keep weight at as normal of a level as possible. There are a few recommended therapies that are effective for both alignment problems, and in some cases, if there is no other solution, surgery is performed as a last resort in an attempt to repair these alignments.

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Discussion Comments

SarahSon

It is not just overweight people who have trouble with their knees and struggle with arthritis.

I have always maintained my weight, and have a valgus knee deformity. My doctor tells me the pain would probably be a lot worse if I was overweight. That is good motivation for me to not put on a lot of extra weight.

Surgery will also be an option for me in the future. Right now I get a cortisone shot every so often when the pain is really bothering me.

Over the years, this misalignment has caused me to have a lot of arthritis in my knee. I am always careful how I bend and twist my body as I don't want to mess my knee up even more.

golf07

My husband has a lot of knee problems and suffers from both varus and valgus deformity in his knees.

There are many things that have attributed to this over time. He is bow legged, and that is the main cause of his varus problems.

He also works construction and is overweight, so his knees have taken a lot of abuse over the years.

Once he gets to the point where he can no longer manage the pain, he will have to have surgery on both of his knees. They are trying to put it off as long as possible.

The doctor told him if there was any way he could stay off his feet for long periods of time, that would be one thing that would help him more than anything. With his job, that is not easy for him to do though.

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    • A varus deformity causes the load bearing axis of the knee to shift towards the inside.
      By: Syda Productions
      A varus deformity causes the load bearing axis of the knee to shift towards the inside.
    • A varus deformity could contribute to difficulties in walking due to the soreness of the unnatural movements, especially in people who are overweight.
      By: Николай Григорьев
      A varus deformity could contribute to difficulties in walking due to the soreness of the unnatural movements, especially in people who are overweight.
    • A varus deformity can make someone more susceptible to osteoarthritis.
      By: joshya
      A varus deformity can make someone more susceptible to osteoarthritis.
    • Both valgus and varus deformities could be the cause of structural problems within the knee.
      By: evgenyatamanenko
      Both valgus and varus deformities could be the cause of structural problems within the knee.
    • A varus deformity may contribute to difficulties in walking.
      By: Bernhard Richter
      A varus deformity may contribute to difficulties in walking.