Knee Pain in Children – Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment Options

Some children complain of tenderness or pain originating near the bottom part of their kneecap, and it may be from a condition called “Jumper’s Knee“. In most cases, younger children who are involved in sports that require them to run, jump or kick experience such pain. By performing these actions frequently, they become more susceptible to pain and discomfort in the tendon, which stretches over the kneecap’s front portion.

A disorder called the Sinding-Larsen-Johansson, which usually occurs during growth spurts, affect the growth center of the bone of the bottom end of the kneecap. With any disruptions in the developing bone located on this part, pain in the front portion of the knee may arise. However, this condition is only temporary, and it improves as people age.

Causes of Knee Pain in Children



Causes of Knee Pain in Children

Knee pain is attributed to an overuse of the part of the knee called the patellar tendon. Sports or other physical activities that require lots of jumping and squatting can cause this condition. Since these movements force the quadriceps muscle to work very hard to protect the knee and slow the body down, this muscle action puts too much tension on the person’s patellar tendon. Repetitive stress placed on the tendon leads to injury to its individual fibers, and it can result to an inflamed and painful tendon.

Any abnormalities in the alignment of the lower limbs can also cause knee pain. For instance, flat-footed or knock-kneed kids with altered postures are likely to have a sharper angle or Q-angle between the patellar tendon and quadriceps muscle. When there is a large Q-angle, this means there is too much tension and pressure on the patellar tendon, and this increases the risk of suffering from knee pain.


Knee Pain Symptoms

Jumper’s Knee usually produces sharp pain, minimal swelling and tenderness that originate at the portion located over the patellar tendon and below the kneecap. It is also common for children to feel intense pain when they kneel on the sore knee. Several activities including jumping, going up and down the stairs, and squatting can also trigger pain because the quadriceps muscle must work eccentrically to perform these actions.

On the other hand, children who are diagnosed with the Sinding-Larsen-Johansson disorder suffer from the same symptoms along the kneecap’s upper portion. They may also feel a certain tightness in the area, particularly when they need to bend their knees completely.

knee pain childrens




  • Doctors identify this knee problem in children through physical examination and analysis of the patient’s medical history.
  • The child’s activity level and age will also be assessed, and the doctor will examine the painful area by pressing on the patella and the patellar tendon to check any existing tenderness.
  • Patients may also be asked to straighten their knee against resistance, which requires the quadriceps muscle to work and put more tension on the patellar tendon.
  • When there is pain and discomfort experienced during this physical test, doctors can make a final diagnosis of Jumper’s Knee.

In case the Sinding-Larsen-Johansson disorder is suspected to be the cause of knee pain, an X-ray of the side parts of the knee will be taken. This will allow the doctor to look for small bone fragments where any tension in the patellar tendon have been affected by disruptions in the growth plate in the patella’s bottom tip. The X-ray also provides information about any roughness or calcification around the bottom part of the patella.

If the patient suffers from knee pain due to a fall or any other similar accidents, the doctor will require an X-ray of the painful part to check for fracture in the patella. There may also be instances when MRI scan will be needed to provide more details about the condition. This can help detect swelling, calcification, inflammation and injury within the patellar tendon.


Treatment Options

Patients who are diagnosed with Jumper’s Knee are advised not to participate in sports within a short period, so the inflammation and pain will subside. In the case of patients with Sinding-Larsen-Johansson disorder, nonsurgical treatment is often required. This means, it only takes some time for the symptoms to subside and go away completely.

Swelling of the knee is reduced by taking anti-inflammatory medications. Doctors may also recommend the use of knee sleeves and straps to manage pain. For those who experience severe knee pains, they may be advised to work with a physical therapist for support and total recovery.

Physical therapists apply a wide variety of treatment options to control pain and inflammation of the knee. These include the application of heat or ice, a series of posture exercises, and the use of special shoe inserts that can correct altered posture.

The main purpose of nonsurgical rehabilitation is to minimize inflammation and pain, as well as to manage Jumper’s Knee symptoms. With regular therapy sessions and strict adherence to the doctor’s prescription, children who suffer from knee pain will be able to overcome this painful condition and get back to their normal activities.

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