Common Reasons for Knee Pain in Children

Why Do Children Get Knee Pain

This post hits very close to home for me. When my son was younger, he went through an extremely difficult phase where his lower limbs (ankles, knees, etc.) were in pain for long periods of time. At first we figured that it was related to normal growing pains, but eventually (after many doctor’s appointments) we found out that he had a vitamin D deficiency. Basically, his body wasn’t producing enough natural vitamin D so his bones became brittle, which caused a lot of pain around his ankles and knees.

Things are much better now that he’s being followed by the right specialist. I’m not writing this because I believe that all children who experience knee pain have the same issue. The main reason why I’m bringing it up is because a lot of parents assume that their child’s knee pain is related to “growing pains” and sometimes that is the case, but not always. Knee pain in children can be from a lot of different reasons, like overuse from too much physical activity, lack of flexibility, lack of muscle strength, or from diseases such as Osgood-Schlatter disease. The important thing is to get it checked out if the pain lasts too long, or else things may get worse.

What Causes Knee Pain in Children

Osgood-Schlatter disease (OSD) is an inflammation in the lower part of the knee, more specifically, in the area where the tendon attaches the top of the tibia to the kneecap. It is common in children who are going through growth spurts. Often, your child will feel most of the pain during sports or other physical activities (running, jumping, etc.) and you will often notice swelling in the lower knee area afterwards. Sometimes OSD can last up to a year or two, however there are treatments available to make the pain more manageable:

  • Limit physical activity until the pain goes away
  • Stretch the hamstring and quadricep before and after exercise
  • Apply heat before physical activities and ice afterwards (15 min before/after)
  • Medication such as ibuprofen

Runner’s knee is another common reason for knee pain in children. It develops when the kneecap no longer tracks properly over the femural groove in the thighbone, when your child bends and unbends his/her knees. This can happen after a sudden impact to the knee, overuse, or if your child lacks muscle strengher or flexibility. It is also known to develop with children who have flat feet. Usually they feel the pain in the back of the knee or on the sides of the patella. There could even be some swelling involved. You have to be careful with this one because if it goes untreated for too long, it may cause damage to the cartilage. Some of the treatments include:

  • Using the RICE principle – Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation.
  • Taking a break from physical activities.
  • Light stretching exercises before and after exercise.
  • Getting special inserts if your child has flat feet.

There are other reasons why your child’s knee might be in pain. Whatever the case may be, it is important that you pay attention to the symptoms and monitor the pain. If it’s only temporary (i.e.; a few days), then there may be nothing to worry about. However, if the pain lasts more than a week or so, it is most likely a sign that something more serious is in play. If this is the case, I highly recommend that you limit physical activity as much as possible and consult a doctor immediately.

Final Thoughts for Knee Pain in Children

Have you gone through this with any of you children? I hope you haven’t, but if you have, I would like to know how it went and what you were able to do to relieve some of his or her pain.

Until later.