As a parent, it can be worrisome when your child comes to you complaining of pain. Many aches and pains can be explained away as growing pains, but if your child has pain and swelling in the knees and also has a lump or bump on their knee that is tender to the touch, they could have Osgood-Schlatter disease. While we always suggest you seek medical care at the onset of any new symptoms, sometimes you just need to know how much to worry about your kids. So, today we’ll address swollen painful knees in children, a possible cause, and treatment options.
Your child hasn’t fallen or otherwise injured their knee, yet they’re experiencing pain, swelling, and have a bump that’s painful when you touch it. Osgood-Schlatter disease can occur in both knees at once or in just one knee. Symptoms include:
- Pain that increases with exercise
- A bump below the kneecap at the top of the shinbone
These symptoms may get worse with activities like running, jumping, or climbing stairs and ease when your child has rested. Osgood-Schlatter disease is most common in active children between the ages of 8 and 15. Children that play sports such as soccer, hockey, football, gymnastics, or ballet are more likely to develop this condition.
Although there could be any number of causes for knee pain in children, a common cause is Osgood-Schlatter disease. Osgood-Schlatter disease is caused by a combination of overuse (as the condition is most common in active children) and growth spurts. It happens when too much stress is put on the muscles and tendons that support the knee. When these muscles and tendons are put under repeated stress, the patellar tendon can pull away from the shinbone causing your child’s knee to swell and hurt. Common activities that may contribute to Osgood-Schlatter disease include:
- Basketball and other sports that involve jumping
- Soccer or other sports that involve quick changes in direction
If your child is active and has a knee that is swollen and hurts we suggest seeking an assessment from a physiotherapist. When caught early, treatment for Osgood-Schlatter disease is simple and straightforward with “90% of patients responding well to nonoperative treatment… and rehabilitation exercises.”[i] Nonoperative treatments include:
- Activity modification
- Flexibility and strengthening exercises
- Bracing like this McDavid Patella Strap
If caught and treated early and effectively, your child can see an improvement in symptoms within a relatively short period of time. If you think your child might have Osgood-Schlatter disease it’s best to book an appointment with a qualified physical therapist to get a full assessment and treatment plan in place– no doctor referral needed!*
*A doctor referral may be required to access your third party insurance