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Osgood-Schlatter Disease Physiotherapy

Osgood-Schlatter disease (OS) refers specificly to an overuse injury causing pain in the knee area and often a visible growth just below the kneecap.

The development of OS is more often a consequence of excessive stress to the front of the knee during periods of rapid skeletal growth (hence it affects mainly adolescents because adolescents typically experience the greatest rate of skeletal growth).

The condition can be effectively treated by our senior physiotherapists.

What is Osgood-Schlatter Disease?

Osgood-Schlatter disease happens when there is irritation to the top, front portion of the shin bone (tibia) where the tendon attached to the kneecap (patella) meets the shin bone, when there is an increased amount of stress placed upon the bones where the tendons attach.

This is most often the result of increased activity levels by an adolescent athlete.

You see, our musculoskeletal system is made up of bones and surrounding soft tissue structures, including muscles, ligaments (which connect bone to bone), and tendons (which connect muscle to bone) and they work together collectively to help us move.

During adolescence our bodies grow at a rapid rate.

As our bodies develop, our bones are growing longer. Throughout this growth phase, our growth plates (epiphyseal plates) are susceptible to injury. (A growth plate is the site at the end of a bone where new bone tissue is made and bone growth occurs).

Females typically experience the most rapid growth between approximately 11 to 12 years of age, and males typically experience this growth surge between approximately 13 and 14 years of age. Males experience OS more frequently than females, likely due to an increased rate of sports, exercise and physical activity/exertion and participation.

Structures in our body might become irritated if they are asked to do more than they are capable of doing. Injuries can occur in an isolated event, but Osgood-Schlatter disease is most likely the cumulative effect of repeated trauma and injuries. OS is most frequently experienced in adolescents who regularly participate in

  • running
  • jumping
  • and "cutting" (rapid changes in direction) activities

When there is too much stress is present (ie, from rapid growth) and when the body is overworked (ie, either too much overall volume of exercise, or too much repetition), the top of the shin can become painful and swollen

As this condition progresses, the body’s response to bone stress can be an increase in bone production; an adolescent may begin to develop a boney growth that feels like a bump on the front of the upper shin.

OS can start as mild soreness, but can progress to long-lasting pain and limited function, if not diagnosed or addressed early and appropriately.

How Does Osgood-Schlatter disease Feel like ?

With Osgood-Schlatter, patients may experience:

  • Gradually worsening pain below the knee, at the top of the shin bone
  • Pain that increases and worsens with exercise
  • Swelling and tenderness at the top of the shin
  • A bony growth at the top of the shin
  • Loss of strength in the quadriceps muscle (connecting the hip to the knee)
  • Increased tightness in the quadriceps muscle
  • Loss of knee motion (decreased knee range of motion)
  • Discomfort with daily activities that use your knee, like kneeling, squatting, or walking up and down stairs

How Is It Diagnosed?

Diagnosis of OS begins with a thorough medical history, including specific questions regarding athletic participation (sports played, frequency of practices/games, positions).

Our senior physiotherapists will assess different measures, such as

We will perform several tests specific to the knee joint, and may ask you to briefly demonstrate the activities or positions that cause your pain, such as walking, squatting, and stepping up or down stairs.

Because the knee and hip are both involved in these aggravating activities, we will likely examine your hip as well. Other nearby areas, such as your feet and core, will also be examined to determine whether they, too, might be contributing to your knee condition.

If we suspects there may be a more involved injury than increased stress-related irritation (ie, if there is a recent significant loss of motion or strength, or severe pain when the knee is moved), we will likely recommend a referral to an orthopedic physician for diagnostic imaging, such as

  • diagnostic ultrasound
  • x-ray
  • MRI

how our senior physiotherapists can help

Once other conditions have been ruled out and Osgood-Schlatter Disease is diagnosed, we will work with you to develop an individualized treatment plan tailored to your specific knee condition and your goals.

The main goal of physical therapy is to accelerate your recovery and return to pain-free life and activity. There are many physiotherapy treatments that have been shown to be effective in treating OS, and among them are:

Range of Motion Therapy

We will assess the motion of your knee and its surrounding structures, and design gentle exercises to help you work through any stiffness and swelling to return to a normal range of motion.

Strength Training

We will teach you exercises to strengthen the muscles around the knee so that each muscle is able to properly perform its job, and stresses are eased so the knee joint is properly protected.

Manual Therapy

We're trained in manual (hands-on) therapy. If needed, we will gently move your kneecap or patellar tendon and surrounding muscles as needed to improve their motion, flexibility, and strength. These techniques can target areas that are difficult to treat on your own. 

Pain Management

We may recommend therapeutic modalities for pain relief physiotherapy, such as

Functional Training

We're experts at training athletes to function at their best and will assess your movements and teach you to adjust them to relieve any extra stress on the front of your knee.