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Managing the Pain brought by Osgood-Schlatter Disease

Managing the Pain brought by Osgood-Schlatter Disease

by Chris Williams
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Is Age a Factor?

When we talk about injuries and ailments, we usually see them as signs of aging. To be honest in most cases they typically are! Osteoarthritis is one example of these, this joint ailment usually comes about for people over the age of 40. Some bodily functions and abilities get a significant reduction in effectiveness as we age and this is no exception.

When we talk about injuries or ailments, our usual reaction is to assume that age is a large factor. To be honest, it’s because it typically is – osteoarthritis, for example, in most cases has age as a fairly significant risk factor; some bodily functions and abilities experience reduced effectiveness as we age and this is no different. However, not all situations can be accounted to age, there are a lot of other factors that increase the risk of injuries and ailments other than it. Injuries in particular can happen to anyone – anyone can suffer tears at the anterior cruciate ligament, for example, under similar conditions. Good for us, science has advanced to the point where we have a better understanding of what these injuries and ailments do to our bodies and how we can deal with them.

One example of an ailment that doesn’t take age as a factor is Osgood-Schlatter Disease. Named after American orthopedic surgeon Robert Osgood and Swiss surgeon Carl Schlatter, who concurrently described the effects of the disease in 1903, OSD, which is a common cause of knee pain in physically active adolescents. OSD is caused by repetitive contraction of the thigh muscles, which results in the kneecap tendon pulling on the tibia, this causes an inflammation and brings about pain. OSD manifests as a contraction at the patellar tendon’s insertion upon the tibial tubercle, usually in preadolescence as this is when that particular portion of the joint is still susceptible to strain of this type. This contraction causes pain in that immediate portion.

OSD and Growth Spurts

Besides the vulnerability of these parts of the joint at a certain age, OSD can also be caused by growth spurts that happen as adolescents develop at a faster rate than usual. This rapid growth results in muscles, bones, and the like having to shift and change to adapt to the changes in the body. Unlike osteoarthritis OSD has been found to occur more in young males, especially those who are actively engaged in sports that involve running, jumping and quickly shifting direction. Sports like basketball, baseball, soccer and so on are the more common activities. These activities are likely to put stress on the knees, as this load-bearing joint is one of those responsible for supporting our body weight as we move. This movement causes greater impact, of course, when we add more factors such as speed and intensity of movement and more importantly the frequency of how these movements are done.

OSD Does Not Lead to Permanent Disability

Though the pain brought by OSD can be quite discouraging, the ailment is self-limiting and not likely to lead to permanent problems or disability. The condition eventually resolves itself given time but may be quite troublesome until it does. Pain may be sporadic or constant, at times affecting one knee and in other cases both, what is more troublesome is that it also limits basic day to day activities and movement.

A person, an adolescent in this case, does still need to continue living their life – and so ways to reduce the pain and swelling caused by OSD become necessary.

  1. Rest. Physical activity is what causes OSD – adding addition stress or shaking up the knees while it is recuperating is generally a bad idea. Take a break from sports and other physical activities for the meantime, and try to reduce activity in general. Remember that each person recovers at their own pace and that there is no specific timeframe for it. Recovery can take weeks for some and months for others.
  2. Ice. One of the most common treatments recommended and is possibly the simplest one as well. Using icebags over the swollen or painful areas aids the healing process and reduces pain in two main ways: the lowered temp thanks to the cold therapy reduces the swelling, reducing pain along the way, and the cold numbs the nerves making us not feel the present pain. Apply an ice pack – or frozen meat or peas if that is what is available – to the bump (the tibial tuberosity) below the kneecap. Hold it in place for 20 minutes every couple of hours for a day or two, then reduce the frequency as the pain subsides.
  3. Compression garments and bracing. Compression garments in particular helps by ensuring efficient circulation of blood in the area, which allows it to heal better. A further step that can be taken is the use of a knee brace or knee immobilizer. This prevents the joint from flexing, reducing the stress it sustains from basic movements like walking. This however will reduce your range of movement itself and can be a bit cumbersome, but the prevention of further damage to the patellar tendon makes a big difference. Take note that complete inactivity, which may be recommended for other ailments and injuries, typically is not necessary for OSD, but reduction of movement will help. A patellar tendon strap is a good alternative to a brace, it distributes flex force away from the tibial tuberosity and supports the patellar tendon during movement.
  4. Medication. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can be prescribed for this sort of situation. Keep in mind that medication may have different reactions for different people and should only be taken if advised by a doctor as the side effects could be drastic. More importantly, they just combat the inflammation but do not directly address the cause. Some steroids like cortisone can be quite potent, but injections should not be given to adolescents with OSD as the risks (tendon weakening, reduced immune system function) are quite significant.
  5. Quad stretches. As you recover the swelling eventually dies down, doing quad stretches can do a good job in reducing the tightness of the quadriceps tendons especially after a period of limited mobility. Stretching this muscle group can reduce the pain in the region where the kneecap meets the shin bone, reducing tension that causes pain and swelling.

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