Growing Pains: What are they?

The medical term for growing pains in the knee is called Osgood-Schlatter Disease. Osgood-Schlatter Disease occurs in kids when they go through rapid vertical growth phases, typically sometime between 11 and 16 years of age. During this growth phase the bones grow faster than the tendons. The tendons tug on the growth plates were they are attached to the bone.

The most common site for growing pains is the front part of the knee. There is a growth plate in the front of your knee. If your shin bone grows very quickly where the tendon attaches to the growth plate or bone, the tendon can pull and elevated the growth plate off the major shaft of the tibia or shin bone. This will bother kids when they jump or run. The pain may occur until the growth plate completely closes which is typically age 14 for girls and age 16 in boys.

The treatment is supportive. Supportive means it’s OK to play through the pain. We recommend ice, anti-inflammatory medications as needed, and sometimes even a patellar tendon strap can help. Once the growth plate has closed the growing pains go away.

Image below is an x-ray of a patient with Osgood-Schlatter Disease. The red arrow points to the growth plate that is elevated off of the shaft of the bone. Typically the kids will complain of pain right in that area. Sometimes you may actually see some swelling from the localized inflammation.