Many kids experience what is commonly referred to as "growing pains" as they get older. Children may experience aches and pains as young as 3 to 4 years old, then again around 8 to 12 years of age.
When a teen's legs and knees hurt, he or she may also be told that they are probably suffering from growing pains and that they will grow out of it.
There are times when a youngster or teen has simply overdone it by running and / or jumping too much. Like anyone else, if they haven't used those muscles enough – they'll be sore.
However, consistent knee pain is something else.
A Danish study says that if a teen's knee pain persists, it could become a chronic condition affecting their quality of life.
"We can see from the study that one in three young people between the ages of 12 and 19 experience problems with pain in their knees," said Michael Skovdal Rathleff, a physiotherapist from Aarhus University. "Seven percent of the adolescents experience daily knee pain in the front of the knee. More than half still have problems after two years, so it is not something they necessarily grow out of."
The study involving 3,000 teens revealed knee pain is a more significant problem than previously thought.
"If knee pain is not treated there is a high risk of the pain becoming chronic. And this clearly has a big consequence for the individual's everyday life and opportunities," Rathleff noted in a university news release. "Our findings show that these adolescents have as much pain symptoms and reduced quality of life as adolescents on a waiting list for a cruciate knee ligament reconstruction, or as a 75-year-old six months after receiving a new knee."
Other studies have shown that about 25 percent of patients who've undergone a knee replacement because of osteoarthritis of the kneecap also had knee pain since they were teenagers. Osteoarthritis of the kneecap, the researchers concluded, may sometimes begin early in life. They added, however, that earlier treatment and proper training could help.
According to a study published in BMC Pediatrics, pain resolves in about half of the young people with knee pain when they get the right physical therapy. Unfortunately, many kids may not get the therapy they need soon enough.
"It is worrying that the pain only disappears in the case of half of the young people who actually do the training," said Rathleff. "The indications are that we should start the treatment somewhat earlier where it is easier to cure the pain."
Do all teens with a bad knee need physical therapy? Not necessarily, it all depends on the child's circumstances, Rathleff noted.
If your child has knee pain that doesn't seem to go away or consistently comes and goes, you might want to talk with your family doctor or pediatrician about physical therapy and see if he or she recommends it. The benefits could be life changing for your active teen.
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