Have you ever taken your child to the doctor with knee pain or ankle pain and been told, “Oh, it’s just growing pains?” You may have felt like you were just getting brushed off, but it actually is a common source of pain in the growing skeleton.
The two most common locations are pain in the front of the knee on the shin bone, and over the heel in the back. These disorders have fancy names that are grouped into a medical term “apophysitis”, which refers to strain at the attachment site of a tendon to an open growth plate.
In the knee, the specific diagnosis is called Osgood Slaughter’s disease. This refers to an apophysitis at the attachment of the Patellar tendon to the Tibia (shin). What causes the problem is that as the long bones grow longer, it puts more strain on the tendons as they stretch to stay up. The weak link is the tendon attachment on the bone. A layperson’s way to think of this is the long bones outgrow the tendons. Once growth reaches maturity, the pain is gone and the problem is solved.
In the ankle, this is called Sever’s disease and occurs where the Achilles tendon attaches to the heel bone (calcaneus). Again, the long bones grow too fast and it puts a strain on the attachment of the Achilles, on the heel bone. These kids will complain of possible heel or ankle pain and often times walk on their toes to get relief.
Treatment for both disorders is stretching, stretching, stretching, and anti-inflammatory medication. It rarely has any long-term consequences.
By: Dr. Patrick Boyett