Knee problems in children. Knee problems that are not the result of an accident are called non-traumatic knee problems. They are not the result of a fall, strange twist, or other “force” on the knee.
By children, we mean young people up to the age of about eighteen years old. The conditions that cause such knee complaints in children are so numerous that we cannot discuss them all separately here. Moreover, most of them are very rare and the complaints often go away on their own. Usually, the cause even remains unknown, even if you go to the doctor with it. That is why in this information leaflet we discuss non-traumatic knee problems in children quite generally. Knee problems can manifest themselves in various ways:
- abnormal position
- painful knee
- cracking knee
- knee that no longer wants to move
How do you recognize knee problems in children?
Usually a child complains of knee pain themselves. The child may no longer use the affected leg. It could also be that a parent discovers something strange about their knees. Such as a strange position of the leg or knee. Or a knee that is slightly thicker than the other knee.
How do knee problems arise in children?
Children’s legs are still growing. This includes that the position of the knees changes over the years. Often there is a period with bow legs and a period with X legs, without this indicating a disease.
It often happens that a child reports pain in one or both knees, without the doctor finding abnormalities. These complaints are also often attributed to growth.
Other causes of knee complaints in children can be overload and inflammation in the knee.
Is it serious and what can you expect?
There are many types of knee complaints that can occur in children. Most conditions are very rare and therefore we will not discuss here. There are some general guidelines to give:
- in children up to about two years old it is quite normal for them to have bow legs. This often corrects itself later in the growth
- children between about two and seven years old usually develop mild X-legs
- in children from about seven years of age, the legs almost always straighten out normally
- growing pains are common in growing children, but are never associated with limping. They almost always occur in both legs.
- a special form of knee complaints in children is Osgood-Schlatter disease. This usually involves pain in the upper bone of the lower leg. So just below the kneecap. In general, this occurs in somewhat older children and young people in the growth phase. Often there are complaints in both knees at the same time. The pain often occurs after exercise and with direct pressure on the knee such as kneeling. If the complaints persist for longer, it is advisable to consult your doctor
When to go to the doctor?
In the following cases, it is advisable to contact the doctor:
- if there is a clear difference between the left and right leg or between the left and right knee that lasts for more than a few weeks
- if a child no longer wants to put weight on one leg or changes its way of walking, for example dragging one leg, and this takes longer than a few days to weeks
- if a child has very pronounced bow-legs after the second year of life
- as a child, very strong X-legs after about the seventh year of life
What can you do about it yourself?
When examining a child’s legs and knees, it is useful to make a good comparison on the left and right. Examine the child if there is a difference between left and right:
- when walking
- at rest in size, redness, size
- when bending and stretching
Usually children grow over it later. Try not to force your own examinations: preferably let the child make the movements himself. It is also useful to check whether the child, in addition to knee complaints, also suffers from a fever and / or skin rash. If so, it could indicate some form of joint inflammation. Then it is wise to consult your doctor.
General advice and precautions
- Children grow. It is normal for the position of the legs and knees to change somewhat over time. Because children often fall and bump the knee, it can sometimes temporarily suffer from a knee and therefore use it less or differently
- Since children are still growing, they need good nutrition, vitamins and minerals. Vitamin D in particular is very important for bone development. Children who spend a lot of time indoors and get very little sunlight (for example in winter) may sometimes get a little too little vitamin D. You can give this vitamin extra through various vitamin pills and pay special attention when cooking food
- In addition, vitamin D is also one of the reasons that children should be stimulated to go outside: the body makes a little vitamin D by sunlight. However, this is usually not enough, especially in the winter months. The rest must be absorbed through the diet
- When cycling it is important that the leg is fully extended when the pedal is in the lowest position. If the knee cannot extend completely, it will eventually cause pain. It is therefore important to adjust the saddle to the correct height. Especially with growing children who cycle a lot, it is good to pay attention to this
- It is also important, if possible, not to put too much resistance on the bike. Especially if the knee or knees are or are starting to become somewhat sensitive, it is advisable to keep the resistance low. This way the knees are not overloaded. Once the cyclist has gained speed, he can shift to a heavier gear
See also, Knee problems (traumatic)