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Best Exercises for Varus Knee

Medically Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on November 30, 2020

Varus knee, also known as genu varum, is a condition that affects the alignment of bones in a person’s leg. If you have this condition, the larger bone in your calf, the tibia, is misaligned with the larger bone in your thigh, the femur.

Varus knee is common in newborns. In older children and adults, the condition is usually caused by improper bone formation due to rickets, cancer, or arthritis. Certain professions can increase one’s risk of developing varus knee.

Various exercises can help reduce the pain caused by this condition. Stretching and strengthening exercises can potentially prevent the need for surgery to correct the condition.

Exercises to Help with Varus Knee

Exercises that strengthen the hip external rotator muscles have been shown to have a positive effect on varus knee.

External Hip Rotation

This exercise helps increase your hip flexibility and can help minimize lower back pain associated with poor leg alignment.

Step 1: Stand facing forward with your feet shoulder-width apart.

Step 2: Move your left leg out to your side approximately six to eight inches.

Step 3: Lift your left foot off the ground one to two inches.

Step 4: Turn your head to the right.

Step 5: Keeping your left foot elevated, slowly rotate your left foot to the left as far as comfortable.

Step 6: Hold this position for 20 to 30 seconds.

Step 7: Repeat with the right side.

Step 8: Complete three to five reps on each side of your body.

Step 9: If you have trouble with balance, leave your left heel on the ground throughout the exercise.

Internal Hip Rotation

This exercise helps increase your hip flexibility and assists with the correction of your leg alignment.

Step 1: Stand facing forward with your feet shoulder-width apart.

Step 2: Lift your left foot off the ground one to two inches.

Step 3: Turn your head to the left.

Step 4: Keeping your left foot elevated, slowly rotate your left foot to the right as far as comfortable.

Step 5: Hold this position for 20 to 30 seconds.

Step 6: Repeat with the right side.

Step 7: Complete three to five reps on each side of your body.

Step 8: If you have trouble with balance, leave your left heel on the ground throughout the exercise.

Sitting Stretch

This stretch will help increase the range of motion of your hip and strength the muscles in your legs and hips.

Step 1: Sit down in a chair that allows you to lean back 10 to 12 inches.

Step 2: Raise your left leg up and place your left ankle on your right knee so that your left leg is perpendicular to your right leg.

Step 3: Lean back slightly.  You should feel a stretch in your left hip.

Step 4: Hold this position for 20-30 seconds.

Step 5: Repeat with your right leg.

Wall Stretch

Along with the sitting stretch, a wall can be used to assist with this wall stretch, which will improve flexibility in your hip muscles.

Step 1: Stand perpendicular to a wall, about 15 to18 inches away from the wall, with your left leg close to the wall. 

Step 2: Move your left leg out so that your foot is on the floor against the wall.  Keep your leg straight.

Step 3: Slowly bend your right knee approximately 10 degrees.  

Step 4: Hold this position for 45-60 seconds while feeling the stretch in your left hip. 

Step 5: Repeat on the right side.

Yoga

Yoga helps with all aspects of mobility and flexibility.  When done properly, the discipline can strengthen and stretch the muscles affected by genu varum. Many standard yoga poses have been shown to be beneficial to the participants in the study.

Squats

Squats, which are among the most popular exercises for leg muscle therapy, have also been shown to be beneficial for varus knee.

Step 1: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.

Step 2: Look straight ahead.

Step 3: Put your arms straight in front of you.

Step 4: Slowly bend both your knees evenly while keeping your focus straight ahead. 

Step 5: As you bend your knees, keep your knees aligned with your feet. 

Step 6: Straighten your legs. 

Step 7: Repeat 5-10 times.

Step 8: Increase the number of repetitions as your strength and stamina increase.

Lunges

Lunges increase both flexibility and leg strength when done properly. 

Step 1: Stand with your feet together, looking forward.

Step 2: Step forward with your left leg.

Step 3: Lower your right leg as far as you feel comfortable.

Step 4: Straighten your right leg.

Step 5: Move your left leg next to your right leg.

Step 6: Repeat the process with your right leg moving forward.

Step 7: If you have balance issues, place a chair beside you for stability. 

Safety Considerations

Before beginning any exercise program, always consult your doctor to determine which activities are best for your individual condition. Improper exercises or techniques can potentially aggravate the condition.

Show Sources

SOURCES:

BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders: “Comparison of neuromuscular and quadriceps strengthening exercise in the treatment of varus malaligned knees with medial knee osteoarthritis: a randomised controlled trial protocol.”

British Journal of Sports Medicine: Relationship between hip strength and frontal plane posture of the knee during a forward lunge.”

Cedarville University: “Knee Loading Due to Varus and External Rotation in Gait Supports Medial Compartment Wear in Total Knee Arthroplasty.”

International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery: “Effectiveness of Hip External Rotator Strengthening Exercise in Korean Postural Bowleg Women.”

Journal of Applied Biomechanics: “Relationship Between Hip and Knee Strength and Knee Valgus During a Single Leg Squat.”

Journal of The Korean Society of Physical Medicine: “The Effect of Stretching and Elastic Band Exercises Knee Space Distance and Plantar Pressure Distribution during Walking in Young Individuals with Genu Varum.”

National Institutes of Health: “A Yoga Strengthening Program Designed to Minimize the Knee Adduction Moment for Women with Knee Osteoarthritis: A Proof-Of-Principle Cohort Study.”

U.S. National Library of Medicine: “Bowlegs.”

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