Growing Pains: they really do exist!

Part III of Back to School blog series

Active rapidly growing children and adolescents often develop “growing pains” at their knees or heels.  Two common clinical diagnoses of these symptoms are Osgood-Schlatter’s disease and Sever’s disease.

Osgood-Schlatter’s disease presents as pain and swelling in the front of knee just below the kneecap.  Sever’s disease presents as pain and swelling at the back of the heel where the Achilles tendon attaches.  These are not really diseases, but rather overuse “traction apophysites” injuries.  They occur only in children and adolescents before puberty, more often with those who participate in sports and are physically active.

Osgood-Schlatter’s Disease and Sever’s Disease

Running and jumping place a large amount of stress on the patellar tendon at the front of the knee and the Achilles tendon at the back of the heel.  Over time, these tendons pull repeatedly on the bony attachments leading to inflammation and swelling.  Pain with running and jumping, tenderness, and a noticeable bump below the kneecap or at the back of the heel are classic signs and symptoms.

Risk factors for Osgood-Schlatter’s and Sever’s diseases are:

  • a recent growth spurt,
  • tight muscles and
  • participation in sports (eg. basketball, soccer, football, volleyball, dance, and lacrosse).

Treatment consists of:

  • resting during periods of inflammation,
  • icing to manage the pain and swelling and
  • modifying the activities that cause the irritation.

The good news:  the pain goes away once your child stops growing!

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