Note: I now offer specific treatment for Osgood-Schlatter’s Disease.
What is Osgood-Schlatter’s Disease?
Osgood-Schlatter’s disease is the most common overuse injury among childhood athletes. It is a condition of the knee, where pain is felt below the kneecap at the bony bump at the top of the shin. It is likely caused by growth spurts, where the muscles of the thigh do not keep up with growth of the femur (the long bone of the upper leg), combined with overuse in sports or other activities.
The quadriceps muscle group, on the front of the thigh, goes over and attaches just below the kneecap. Osgood-Schlatter’s disease is present when the muscle tendon at the attachment point gets partially torn. This causes pain when running, jumping and kicking. It’s important to allow recovery to avoid an outright fracture of the kneecap and/or complications into adulthood. Historically, using conventional treatment, an average of 21 months is needed for recovery.
Dramatic Improvement with Massage and Stretching
Recovery time was significantly decreased if the patient did two things:
- Performed myofascial release massage (MRM, also known as MFR) daily, until flexion of the knee was no longer painful, then…
- Stretched daily
One study demonstrated that with this approach, a full pain-free wall squat was achieved by all 25 of the study’s patients in an average of 20 days and no longer than 50 days. At that point, the patients were discharged and could return to their sports. Three weeks is a LOT faster than 21 months! Patients who continued to stretch as advised were still healthy 1-5 years after the first treatment period.
If you know a child with Osgood-Schlatter’s disease:
- Myofascial release massage (MRM, also known as MFR) is one of my favorite techniques because it is so effective for a variety of pain conditions. When a child (and parent) come in for this treatment, I demonstrate how to do MFR on his/her thigh(s), as well as teach a parent how to do MFR at home.
- I then give an appropriate stretch for the quadriceps, to be undertaken as soon as pain-free flexion of the knee is achieved by the massage. It is important not to stretch too early or the problem can be worsened.
- To prevent this condition, active kids should be checked for flexibility in the quadriceps and hamstrings. I offer range-of-motion testing (part of my Orthopedic Massage training). Those who lack flexibility are at risk of developing Osgood-Schlatter’s disease. Daily stretches should be followed. However, I recommend avoiding stretching cold muscles. Research shows that stretching is not an effective way to warm muscles. Walking for 5-10 minutes is best to warm up and stretching should follow.
- Despite what other’s may have told you, I do not recommend ice as part of a healing approach to this condition, as it will slow recovery time. This is based on the original doctor who came up with the RICE protocol (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation), who in recent months withdrew his “Ice” recommendation for lack of evidence that it helps, and in face of mounting evidence that it is harmful. More info about this on my massage blog, “The “Ice” in RICE Treatment No Longer Recommended.”
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