Knee pain is relatively common in children. Most of the time, harmless growing pains are behind the symptoms, which are particularly noticeable at night. During physical stress, however, the pain usually does not occur. But behind knee problems can also be other causes: strong pain that occur, for example, after a fall during sports, may indicate a knee injury. Also, children and adolescents may be affected by conditions such as Osgood-Schlatter's disease or Larsen-Johansson's disease.
Growing pains as a cause
Almost 20 percent of all children suffer from growing pains every now and then. Children and adolescents between the ages of 4 and 6 as well as 10 and 16 years are affected. Knee pain usually occurs at night and is particularly noticeable on the front of the knee. Often they also radiate into the upper or lower leg. Typical of growing pains is that there are no concomitant symptoms apart from knee pain.
What causes growth pain is not yet known. As a rule, no medical treatment is necessary as the symptoms disappear over time. Cool and physical protection can help to relieve the pain of the knee more quickly. In rare cases, the use of a painkiller may be useful. Ask for advice from a doctor or pharmacist.
Even if growth pains do not need to be treated, other causes such as rheumatism, tumors, as well as Larsen-Johansson's disease or Osgood-Schlatter's disease should be ruled out by a doctor. If your child complains of a knee pain and the symptoms last longer, you should definitely consult a doctor.
Damage to the knee as a cause
Knee pain may indicate an injury to the knee of athletic children. Especially if your child has fallen while exercising or the knee has twisted, you should visit a doctor with persistent knee pain: This can exclude an injury to the ligaments or meniscus.
Knee pain may also be caused by overwork or joint malalignment: X and O legs are a major burden on the knee, especially in overweight children. In the long term, arthrosis may develop as a result of such deformity. In addition to a joint deformity, it is also conceivable that the pain caused by muscular imbalances, such as a shortening of the upper or lower leg muscles.
Rheumatic diseases as a cause
If the knee painfully swells in children without external impact, a joint infection caused by bacteria or viruses can be the cause (post-infectious arthritis). It usually arises as a result of a previous inflammation. Trigger may be, among other things, an infection of the respiratory tract or the gastrointestinal tract, but also a tick bite. Acute joint infections are usually harmless in children and do not cause permanent damage if treated correctly.
On the other hand, chronic joint inflammation (juvenile idiopathic arthritis) can lead to a lasting impairment of the knee joint. What exactly is the cause of pediatric rheumatism is not yet known. However, it is clear that the disease is based on a malfunction of the immune system.
However, many physicians are seldom aware that even children can suffer from rheumatism. However, if your child complains of prolonged knee pain, you should also consider this option.
In the case of Larsen-Johansson disease, an inflammatory reaction of the origin of the patellar tendon causes severe pain. Under certain circumstances, pieces of bone may detach from the kneecap and die off. It is thought that the disease is triggered by an overload.
Particularly at risk are physically active, male adolescents who have certain risk factors. These include, among other things, a hollow back, an above-average height and muscular imbalances. By sparing the joint, complaints usually resolve themselves over time. However, it may take several months for them to disappear.
In Osgood-Schlatter disease, there is irritation to the upper approach of the patellar tendon. Similar to Larsen-Johansson's disease, individual pieces of bone can die off. Triggers here is probably an overuse of the knee joint. Affected are primarily boys between eleven and twelve years. Girls become significantly less likely and if in a slightly older age.
The pain in the knee occurs especially under load, such as when kneeling and when stretching the leg. Typically, there is also a smaller elevation at the top of the tibia, just below the kneecap. By taking a break from exercise and avoiding stretch and flexion loads, the disease generally heals on its own. Again, it may take several months for the pain to disappear completely.
Similar to Osgood-Schlatter's disease, osteochondritis dissecans is more common in male adolescents. Knee pain is caused by a cartilage bone piece dying and then peeling off. As a free joint body - also called a joint mouse - the cartilage piece can block the knee joint.
Typical of osteochondritis dissecans are pain both at rest and during exercise, as well as recurrent swelling. While mild forms can be treated conservatively, an OP is needed in more severe cases.
Radiating hip problems
When children suffer from knee pain, the cause does not always have to be in the knee. For example, the pain may also radiate from the hip to the knee, as is the case, for example, with Perthes disease, an orthopedic childhood disease.
Morbus Perthes primarily affects boys between the ages of five and nine, but it can also occur sooner or later. What causes the disease is still unclear.
In the course of the disease there is a circulatory disorder as well as the death of bone tissue in the hip area. As a result, not only knee pain occurs, but the mobility of the hip decreases and it develops a Schonhinken. Both conservative and surgical therapy aim to relieve the hip joint.