5 Common Orthopedic Problems in Infants and Children

Common orthopedic problems in infants and children almost always have to do with certain difficulties in walking or with abnormalities in the shape of the feet or legs. They usually resolve with time.
5 Common Orthopedic Problems in Infants and Children

Last update: 08 October, 2021

There are many common orthopedic problems in infants and children you should know about. Some of these conditions correct themselves as growth progresses. Others persist or progress and can develop into serious disorders.

Parents should remain vigilant for common orthopedic problems in their children. However, there’s no need to worry or panic. Many conditions seem serious, but really aren’t.

The best thing to do is to consult with your doctor so that they can advise you on what steps to take. You should always wait for time to resolve everything. In this article, we’ll talk about the most common orthopedic problems in children.

5 common orthopedic problems

A child playing

There are a large number of orthopedic anomalies that may be present at birth or appear during the first years of life. However, some are quite common. Among them, five stand out, which we will discuss below.

1. Flat feet

This is one of the most common orthopedic problems in children. In fact, almost all babies are born with flat feet and the arch only forms as they grow. However, in some cases, the arch doesn’t completely form and this is when we talk about flat feet in the strictest sense of the word.

Flat feet aren’t really a problem. There’s no evidence that this reduces the child’s ability to walk normally or play sports. Only in cases where this condition causes pain, doctors will advise the use of special insoles in shoes.

2. Common orthopedic problems: Carrying the weight of the feet on the toes

This anomaly occurs when children walk on tiptoes. This is frequent when they’re learning to walk, in the period between 1 and 3 years of age. They usually give up this habit by the age of 2 years. However, some children continue to walk this way after this stage.

If they tiptoe only occasionally, there’s no problem. If it’s their usual way of walking, you must consult with the pediatrician. In such cases, there may be a neurological problem such as cerebral palsy. If there’s no additional disorder, the child will need treatment to adopt a normal gait.

3. Clubfeet

Clubfeet are twisted inwards. However, we must clarify that babies present this condition when they begin to stand up. This usually occurs between 8 and 15 months of age. If the anomaly persists after this, it’s considered a disorder.

Usually, club feet are the result of the hips turning inward. This is called femoral anteversion. In most cases, this condition doesn’t affect the child’s normal movement and activities. It usually returns to normal with time.

4. Common orthopedic problems: Bowed legs

Another common orthopedic problem in children is bowlegs, also called genu varum. In these cases, there’s an exaggerated curvature from the knee, outward and downward. Many times, this problem corrects itself naturally.

If the abnormality persists beyond the age of 2 years or affects only one leg, there may be a more serious problem: rickets or Blount’s disease. Rickets is a bone growth problem that arises as a result of vitamin D deficiency.

Blount disease is a disorder of the tibia bone that causes abnormal bone growth. In such cases, specialized orthopedic treatment is required. Bowlegs can also be inherited.

5. X-legs

Legs in “x”, or genu valgum, are present in almost all children, but a moderate form. It appears between the ages of 3 and 6 years since at this stage a natural process of alignment of the legs takes place.

It’s common for the legs to straighten themselves out alone with time. Therefore, treatment is rarely necessary. If the “x” in the legs is very accentuated or persists after the age of 6, you must consult a doctor about it.

How to diagnose these conditions

A little girl with a doctor
The pediatrician will perform a physical examination to determine the presence of orthopedic problems.

Diagnosis of common orthopedic problems in infants and children is usually concluded by a physical examination in the pediatrician’s office. Only in special cases are additional tests such as x-rays, CT scans, ultrasounds, electromyography, or MRIs required.

The doctor will almost always look at the affected limb and sometimes ask the child to walk. In the case of flat feet, they may ask the child to tiptoe. In the case of tiptoeing, they will observe the child’s natural gait.

Doctors diagnose club feet by observing the shape and positioning of the foot. For bowlegs, they examine the gait and stride, and sometimes order imaging tests. The latter is the main diagnostic pathway for x-legs.

Pediatric consultation is the best option

Common orthopedic problems also include other conditions that occur relatively frequently, such as “out-toeing,” vertical talus, or more position issues.

For all these reasons, it’s important to observe the evolution of gait in children. When in doubt, the best thing to do is to consult a pediatrician to evaluate the situation. In this, as in so many other cases, early detection and attention can be crucial.

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