Osgood-Schlatter disease: more than just knee pain

Osgood-Schlatter disease: more than just knee pain

Despite the scary name, Osgood-Schlatter disease is both common among adolescents and successfully treated in most cases.

It's not uncommon for your adolescent child to come home limping after playing a tough game or working hard in practice.  This time, they complain just below the knee and when you press on it, there's a lump.  Not wanting to take any chances, you call the doctor and after the appointment learn that your child has Osgood-Schlatter disease.

This disease is both common among adolescents and successfully treated in most cases.

What is Osgood-Schlatter disease?

Osgood-Schlatter disease is the growth of a bony lump at the top of the shin bone below the knee. It typically occurs at puberty – in girls aged 10 to 13 and boys aged 12 to 14. It’s more common in children who play a lot of sports. It’s also more common in boys. The gap seems to be narrowing nowadays, as girls' diagnoses has increased.  Dr. Don MacDonald, a chiropractor in Edmonton, says this is likely because kids have poor posture from sedentary lifestyles, high stress and using devices.

What causes Osgood-Schlatter disease?

It starts with a tight quadricep muscle. The quad muscle extends over the knee and attaches to the shin bone. When the quad muscle is tight, it puts extra pressure on the area where the tendon attaches to the bone. This is common for those who play sports and don’t have the posture build to develop those muscles properly.

When you have extra pressure in one area, the nervous system responds by building up tissue in that area to protect it. That’s how Osgood-Schlatter disease starts.

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How do you diagnose it?

A health practitioner will typically diagnose Osgood-Schlatter disease through a clinical exam. They’ll examine the lump and the pain points around it; with consideration given to the child’s growth stage and activity level. They may order an x-ray as well, to rule out other conditions.

Three types of health practitioners can help diagnose, but they play different roles. Each practitioner brings different tools and strategies that can work together to create an effective treatment.

1. Medical doctor: A medical doctor is often the first to diagnose the disease, according to the Mayo Clinic. They may suggest anti-inflammatory medications (such as aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen) for temporary relief of inflammation. However, this type of treatment helps with the symptoms only, not the cause.

2. Physiotherapist: The Mayo Clinic says a physiotherapist can address the cause with exercises and treatments to relax and strengthen your quad muscle. This can include massage as well as intramuscular stimulation (IMS) using needles to relax the muscle. This can relieve the strain on the joint where Osgood-Schlatter disease occurs.

3. Chiropractor: A chiropractor can also help address the cause of the disease by working to improve your spine function. Adjustments to help your spine move properly can help your nervous system, foot and knee function, Dr. MacDonald says.

What are the long-term prospects for recovery?

Recovery rates for Osgood-Schlatter disease are high. Most children are able to resume full activities and continue into adulthood. In many cases, the lump below the knee will stay there, but without the pain; some people may feel discomfort when kneeling, even into adulthood.

Alexander Doyle’s Osgood-Schlatter story

Alexander played competitive sports as a child and his doctor diagnosed him with Osgood-Schlatter in both knees at age 10. Despite treatments from a variety of health practitioners, his condition worsened. While the condition in his left knee eventually resolved, the pain in his right knee was serious. By his late teens, he had given up most sports and took a long break from treatments.

When he started a job in downtown Toronto in his 20s, he was ready to give treatment another try. He searched for a nearby chiropractor on Lumino Health and found one across from his office. Fortunately, the chiropractor had extensive experience with the condition. Through a number of therapies, the right knee began to respond. These included intramuscular stimulation using acupuncture needles and electric twitches. For the first time in 15 years, Alexander could play sports with little or no pain.

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His advice to others? “If treatments don’t work at first, don’t give up. Try different health professionals until you find the mix of treatments that work for you.”  At Mainway Physiotherapy we are ready to help, visit our WEBSITE or call 905-332-3800 today.