During adolescence, the body goes through frequent growth spurts, which can place additional pressure on weight-bearing joints, such as the knee. As children experience growth spurts, they will often notice pain around the knee joints, often referred to as "growing pains".
One of the most common causes of knee pain in children and adolescents is Osgood-Schlatter disease, an overuse condition frequently found in children who participate in sports.
Osgood-Schlatter disease is the result of repeated joint use during periods of growth. During growth spurts, weight-bearing joints are under additional stress, causing the cartilage surrounding the ends of the bones to inflame. Combined with repeated joint use, inflammation will often develop in the patella tendon as well. The patella tendon connects the kneecap to the shinbone, and the development of inflammation will often cause it to pull away from the shinbone, creating a small tender lump on the knee.
Adolescents who participate in sports, such as soccer, basketball, and gymnastics, are more likely to develop this condition, due to frequent joint use. The condition usually develops in children between the ages of 10 and 15 years old; however, girls often develop the condition earlier than boys. The condition will typically first appear during a period of bone growth in which the child is very active in athletics.
As the condition develops, adolescents will notice a bony lump developing just below the kneecap. The lump and surrounding area will often be tender to the touch, painful, and swell. The muscles in the thigh will often tighten, and the affected joint will often feel unstable. Symptoms will typically worsen during periods of activity, such as running, and will lessen during periods of rest.
Osgood-Schlatter disease typically only affects one knee joint, but may sometimes develop in both joints. The severity of symptoms ranges from slightly noticeable pain to constant intense pain, and is often associated with activity level; however, the extent of symptoms will vary from patient to patient. Symptoms will often reoccur until the patient finishes growing, which may be a few months or a few years, often reappearing during periods of growth.
Through an in-depth examination process, Dr. Haar will assess the symptoms and severity of each patient's unique case, and recommend the best approach for treatment.
Symptoms will typically dissipate when the patient has finished growing, but until growth is complete, there are several conservative treatment options that will help patients manage pain symptoms. It is important to avoid any activities, such as running, that may irritate the joint further.
At the first signs of knee pain and/or swelling, it is important to rest and apply ice to the affected knee. Over the counter pain relieves, such as ibuprofen, will often help to relieve pain symptoms. Physical therapy can help return joint stability, reduce tension in the thigh muscles, and strengthen the joint.
Dr. Haar is one of New York's most experienced orthopaedic physicians, specializing in custom treatment plans for patients of all ages suffering from joint pain. Dr. Haar is nationally recognized for his expertise in the use of physical therapy for the treatment of knee pain. To schedule an appointment, contact his New York City office at (212) 876-7000.