Growing pains otherwise known as, Osgood-Schlatter (say: “oz-good shlot-ter”) disease is one of the most common causes of knee pain in young athletes. It causes swelling, pain and tenderness just below the knee, over the shin bone (also called the tibia). It occurs mostly in boys who are having a growth spurt during their pre-teen or teenage years. One or both knees may be affected. Your 8-year-old daughter can’t fall asleep because her legs hurt. Your friend’s 6-year-old son wakes up in tears with the same complaint. Coincidence? Probably not. Some children experience occasional nighttime leg pain without an apparent cause — often called growing pains. Growing pains aren’t a disease. In fact, the term “growing pains” may be a misnomer because there’s no evidence that growth hurts. Still, growing pains are real for many kids. And it’s important to take your child’s complaints seriously. Occasionally, what seems like growing pains are really due to an underlying condition that can be treated. Growing pains typically end by the teen years. In the meantime, simple comfort measures can help your child make it through the night.
What To Look For
This problem becomes more noticeable during activities that require running, jumping or going up or down stairs. It’s most common in young athletes who play football, soccer or basketball or are involved in gymnastics and ballet. Osgood-Schlatter disease usually goes away with time. When your child stops growing, the pain and swelling should go away because the patellar tendons become much stronger. Only rarely does Osgood-Schlatter disease persist beyond the growing stage. Your doctor may want to examine your child and get a knee x-ray to make sure the pain isn’t caused by something else. Your doctor may tell your child to cut down on time spent playing sports until the pain has been gone for 2 to 4 months. Your child may need to avoid any activity that requires deep knee bending. Your child may also need to run at a slower speed or for a shorter amount of time and jump less often.
How should my child’s pain be treated?
If pain develops, ice should be applied to some areas. Using ice can help prevent swelling and pain. The knee should be wrapped with an elastic bandage and elevated.
A memory aid that may help remind you of these four basic treatment steps is the word “RICE”:
R = Rest the knee from the painful activity.
I = Ice the affected area for 20 minutes, 3 times a day.
C = Compress the painful area with an elastic bandage.
E = Elevate the leg.
If these treatment steps don’t work, your doctor may suggest that your child wear braces that will reduce tension on the patellar tendons and quadriceps. Pain relievers such as aspirin or ibuprofen may reduce the pain and swelling. Your child may need to use crutches for a while to allow complete healing. As a last resort, your child’s doctor may suggest surgery.