Osgood Schlatter's

Osgood-Schlatter's is a common condition that affects the growth plate at the top of the shinbone in adolescents. It typically causes pain, swelling, and tenderness just below the kneecap.

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Osgood Schlatter's
Osgood Schlatter's
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Your Guide to Understanding Osgood Schlatter's

What is Osgood Schlatter's?

Osgood-Schlatter's disease, also known as Osgood-Schlatter's syndrome or tibial tubercle apophysitis, is a common condition that primarily affects adolescents who are going through a growth spurt. It is characterized by pain, swelling, and tenderness just below the kneecap, specifically at the top of the shinbone (tibia). The condition typically occurs during periods of rapid bone growth when the bones, muscles, and tendons are not fully aligned or synchronized.

During adolescence, the long bones in the body are growing rapidly, and the bones often grow faster than the surrounding muscles and tendons can adapt to. In the case of Osgood-Schlatter's, repetitive tension and stress on the patellar tendon, which connects the kneecap to the top of the shinbone, can lead to inflammation and irritation. This can result in the formation of a painful bump or prominence, called the tibial tubercle, just below the kneecap.

Osgood-Schlatter's is commonly seen in physically active children and teenagers, particularly those involved in activities that require frequent jumping, running, and knee-bending movements, such as soccer, basketball, gymnastics, and dance. Symptoms usually develop gradually and may worsen with increased physical activity. Resting, avoiding activities that exacerbate symptoms, and applying ice to the affected area can help alleviate pain and swelling.

While Osgood-Schlatter's can be uncomfortable and may limit participation in certain physical activities for a period of time, it is a self-limiting condition. Most cases resolve spontaneously once the growth plates close and skeletal maturity is reached, usually around the late teens.

How can Physiotherapy help treat Osgood Schlatter's?

Physiotherapy services play a significant role in alleviating the symptoms and managing Osgood-Schlatter's disease. Physiotherapists utilize a combination of techniques to address pain, reduce inflammation, and improve function. They may prescribe specific exercises to strengthen the quadriceps and surrounding muscles, improving overall knee stability.

Additionally, physiotherapists may employ modalities such as ice packs, ultrasound therapy, or taping techniques to provide pain relief and promote healing. Through patient education on activity modification and proper biomechanics, physiotherapy helps individuals with Osgood-Schlatter's manage their condition, reduce pain, and return to their regular activities with improved comfort and function.

What causes Osgood Schlatter's?

Osgood-Schlatter's disease is typically caused by the repetitive stress and tension placed on the patellar tendon, which connects the kneecap to the shinbone (tibia). During periods of rapid growth in adolescents, the bones often grow faster than the surrounding muscles and tendons can adapt to. This imbalance can lead to inflammation and irritation at the top of the shinbone, just below the kneecap.

Activities that involve frequent jumping, running, and knee-bending movements, such as sports like soccer, basketball, gymnastics, and dance, can increase the risk of developing Osgood-Schlatter's. These repetitive movements place strain on the patellar tendon, leading to micro-injuries and subsequent inflammation in the affected area.

It is important to note that while physical activity is a common trigger, Osgood-Schlatter's can also develop in non-athletic individuals due to other factors such as rapid growth during adolescence or genetic predisposition. Understanding the underlying cause of Osgood-Schlatter's can help guide appropriate treatment and management strategies.

What treatments might help Osgood Schlatter's?

The treatment for Osgood-Schlatter's disease aims to alleviate pain, reduce inflammation, and promote healing. Here are some common approaches that can help improve the condition:

  • Rest: One of the key components of treatment is resting the knee and avoiding activities that exacerbate the pain. This allows the affected area to heal and reduces strain on the knee joint.
  • Cold Therapy: Applying ice packs or cold compresses to the painful area can help reduce pain and swelling. Cold therapy is typically recommended for about 10-15 minutes every 2-3 hours or after activities that worsen symptoms.
  • Pain Medication: Over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, can be used to alleviate pain and reduce inflammation. It is important to follow the recommended dosage and consult with a healthcare professional if needed.
  • Physical Therapy: In some cases, a physical therapist may help develop an exercise program tailored to strengthen the muscles around the knee, improve flexibility, and promote proper biomechanics. This can help relieve pain and support the healing process.
  • Activity Modification: Making modifications to activities that may aggravate the knee, such as reducing high-impact exercises or using proper techniques during sports, can help minimize symptoms and prevent further injury.

Signs of Osgood Schlatter's:

Osgood-Schlatter's disease typically presents with the following signs and symptoms:

  • Knee pain: The most common sign is pain in the front of the knee, just below the kneecap. The pain may be mild to moderate and can worsen with physical activity or when putting pressure on the knee.
  • Swelling: There may be visible swelling or a bump at the top of the shinbone, just below the kneecap. This bump is caused by inflammation and can be tender to touch.
  • Tenderness: The affected area may be sensitive to touch, and pressing on the bump or the surrounding region can cause discomfort.
  • Worsening pain during activity: Pain tends to worsen when engaging in activities that involve running, jumping, or kneeling. It may feel better with rest.
  • Stiffness: Some individuals may experience stiffness or difficulty in fully bending or straightening the knee due to the inflammation and tightness in the surrounding tendons.

Symptoms of Osgood Schlatter's:

Osgood-Schlatter's disease is characterized by the following symptoms:

  • Knee pain: The most common symptom is pain in the front of the knee, just below the kneecap. The pain may be described as aching, throbbing, or sharp.
  • Swelling: There may be visible swelling or a bump on the top of the shinbone, just below the kneecap. This bump is caused by inflammation and can be tender to touch.
  • Tenderness: The affected area may be sensitive to touch, and pressing on the bump or the surrounding region can cause discomfort.
  • Increased pain with activity: Pain typically worsens during physical activities that involve running, jumping, or kneeling. The pain may subside with rest.
  • Stiffness: Some individuals may experience stiffness in the knee or difficulty fully bending or straightening the knee due to the inflammation and tightness in the surrounding tendons.
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When is the right time to see a Physiotherapist for Osgood Schlatter's?

It is advisable to see a physiotherapist for Osgood-Schlatter's disease when you experience persistent pain and discomfort in the knees, especially during physical activities or movement. If the pain is interfering with your daily activities or if you notice swelling, tenderness, or difficulty in bending or straightening your knee, it may be a good time to seek professional help.

Additionally, if you have tried self-care measures such as rest, ice, and over-the-counter pain medications, but the symptoms persist or worsen, it is recommended to consult a healthcare professional. They can assess your condition, provide an accurate diagnosis, and develop a personalized treatment plan to address your specific needs.

Meet our Lead Registered Physiotherapist

Brittany Pereira

Brittany Pereira

Registered Physiotherapist

Registered Physiotherapist with a degree from the University of Toronto

Brittany enjoys working with patients across age groups and backgrounds to help them move better, get stronger, understand their bodies and ultimately, feel more confident. She combines her knowledge and clinical experience to best serve her patients.

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