Physiotherapy Brisbane: Osgood-Schlatter disease

Osgood-Schlatter disease 101: Causes & Reliable Treatments

What is Osgood-Schlatter disease?

Osgood-Schlatter disease is a condition that causes pain and tenderness in the front lower part of the knee. The condition affects active children/adolescents aged 8-15 years old and results from the tendon in the front of the knee placing too much stress on the bone where it attaches at the top of the shin.

The reason that this only occurs in children/adolescents is that when we grow, our bones and cartilage tend to grow much faster than our muscles and tendons. The slower lengthening of the muscles leads to increased stretch force at their attachment point which the immature growing bone cannot cope with, leading to inflammation and pain.

In the late stages of the condition, the irritation of the bone can lead to increased bone growth resulting in a permanent bony lump in the front of the knee.

Causes, Signs, and Symptoms

Irritation of the bone growth plate causes Osgood-Schlatter disease. Bones do not grow in the middle of the bone, but rather at the joint, in the growth plate area. These growth zones are comprised of cartilage rather than bone when a child is still growing. Because cartilage is never as strong as bone, significant levels of stress can cause the growth plate to bulge and hurt, causing the growth plate to hurt and swell.

Running, jumping, and other sports-related activities are frequently associated with painful symptoms. In certain circumstances, both knees show signs and symptoms, however one knee may be more severe than the other in some cases.

  • A painful, tender area at the top of your shin
  • Pain with activities that load the quadriceps such as running, jumping, squatting, and hopping
  • Firm bony lump under the area of tenderness
  • Pain reduces with rest
  • Often occurs after a growth spurt

Osgood-Schlatter Treatment

Osgood-Schlatter disease is a self-limiting condition which means that it will resolve by itself once the child has stopped growing and the growth plate at the top of the shin fuses, however, this can take anywhere from 12-24 months to occur.

During this time it is safe to continue to exercise and for this reason, treatment focuses on managing the symptoms and minimising the load on the knee to reduce pain and allow the child to continue to participate in sport and exercise.

With appropriate treatment, the symptoms/pain can be resolved within a matter of weeks to months and then managed until the child has finished growing. Your physiotherapist will work with you to design a load management strategy based on your priorities and goals so that you can continue to perform and compete at your best with minimal discomfort.

Treatments can include:

  • Rest / Activity modification / Reduced activity
  • Ice
  • Taping/bracing
  • Stretching
  • Massage
  • Foam rolling
  • Correcting biomechanical issues
  • Quadriceps strengthening

Doctor’s Examination

Your child’s doctor will discuss your child’s symptoms and overall health throughout the session. To discover the source of the pain, they will examine the knee thoroughly. For a child with Osgood-Schlatter disease, this will include putting pressure on the tibial tubercle, which should be uncomfortable or painful. To evaluate if your child’s movements are causing uncomfortable symptoms, the doctor may urge him or her to walk, run, jump, or kneel.

An X-ray image of your child’s knee may also be ordered by your child’s doctor to confirm the diagnosis or rule out any other issues.

If you need help with pain or immobility to get you moving again, or need a tailored exercise program, book in for your treatment now with one of our exercise, physio, or pain specialists via 1300 012 273 or head to our website and book a session at your nearest clinic.