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Does Your Adolescent Child Suffer From Intermittent Knee Pain?

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Do you have an adolescent or teenage child who complains of intermittent knee pain? If the knee pain seems to come and go in episodes that last a few weeks or a few months at a time, then there is a good chance it is due to Osgood-Schlatter disease, or OSD. You should take your child to an orthopedic doctor for diagnosis and treatment. Here's a closer look at what the disease entails, how it's diagnosed, and how it is treated.

What Is OSD?

OSD is a pretty common orthopedic condition that affects young teens who are in the midst of a growth spurt. It's common around the age of 14 in females and the age of 16 in males. Basically, the bones grow faster than the muscles in the thigh, resulting in overly tight thigh muscles. When the child is active, the thigh muscle then ends up pulling on the tendon that attaches these muscles to the patella, or knee cap. This leads to pain in that tendon, which is known as the patellar tendon. 

OSD is not a permanent condition. It will resolve itself in time as the child's muscle growth catches up with their bone growth. In the meantime, though, diagnosis and treatment are important because OSD can be pretty painful and debilitating.

How Is OSD diagnosed?

An orthopedic doctor can diagnose OSD by observing your child's symptoms and ruling out other possible causes, such as a sports injury. They'll typically start by x-raying the knee to rule out any problems with the bones themselves. Sometimes an MRI may be done in order to visualize the inflammation in the patellar tendon, but this is not always necessary. Most orthopedic doctors can diagnose OSD just by palpating the knee and watching the child walk.

How Is OSD treated?

Treatment is not aimed so much as resolving the condition; the body will do that itself, given enough time. Rather, treating OSD focuses on minimizing pain and inflammation so the child can stay active and comfortable. In severe cases, the child may need to withdraw from sports for a year or two in order to avoid putting too much strain on their knee. But in more moderate cases, the doctor will show them stretches to keep their knee loose. They'll also prescribe anti-inflammatory medication and recommend icing the knee when it becomes overly painful.

OSD can be pretty painful and debilitating, but the good news is that there are ways to manage it, and kids do eventually outgrow it. Reach out to an orthopedic physician for more information.