Are you or do you know an adolescent athlete dealing with knee pain and tenderness? You/they might have a case of Osgood Schlatter, a condition typified by knee pain and swelling.
While it’s no doubt debilitating and limiting, the good news is that with the right exercises, and stretches, one can kiss that pain goodbye and get back to dominating on the field. So, what are the ideal Osgood Schlatter exercises? Read on to find out.
Causes of Osgood Schlatter
Osgood Schlatter, commonly OSD, is a condition prevalent among adolescents, particularly athletic adolescents. OSD affects the growth plate in the knee, specifically the area just below the kneecap where the tendon from the thigh muscle attaches to the shinbone. It causes pain and tenderness around the kneecap due to inflammation and irritation.
The pain typically worsens with activity and improves with rehabilitative exercises and adequate rest. Factors that contribute to the development of OSD include:
- Rapid growth: Adolescents experiencing rapid growth are more at risk of developing OSD since their growth plate is more vulnerable to stress and strain
- Repetitive stress: Activities that cause repetitive strain on the knee, such as running, put extra stress on the growth plate, leading to inflammation and irritation
- Tight muscles: Tight thigh muscles pull on the patellar tendon, causing extra stress on the growth plate. The result? OSD.
- Overuse: Overuse of the knee, for instance, participating in sports for prolonged periods without proper rest and recovery, can lead to inflammation and irritation of the growth plate.
- Flat feet: Can alter the alignment of the knee and put extra stress on the growth plate.
- Genetics: Some individuals are more predisposed to OSD due to their genetic makeup
Symptoms and Diagnosis
OSD is usually diagnosed through a physical examination of the symptoms. The physician will look for common symptoms, such as swelling around the kneecap.
However, OSD has symptoms similar to other conditions that cause knee pain, such as patellofemoral pain syndrome. As a result, doctors may order an X-Ray or MRI to rule out other conditions from the diagnosis. OSD has symptoms like:
- Pain and tenderness around the kneecap: The most prevalent symptom of OSD, and unfortunately, worsens with activity.
- Swelling around the kneecap
- A bony lump just below the kneecap where the tendon attaches to the shinbone
- The knee may feel stiff, especially in the morning or after sitting for a prolonged period. A limited range of motion often accompanies stiffness.
Osgood Schlatter Exercises
As with most limb-related conditions, rehabilitative exercises can help alleviate OSD symptoms. Here are some excellent Osgood Schlatter exercises:
The thigh muscles, formerly known as the quadriceps, are responsible for extending the knee and are often weak in people with OSD. Stretching the quadriceps can help relieve tension and, thus, the symptoms of OSD. It will also help strengthen the thigh muscles and hamstrings, improving knee stability and reducing stress on the growth plate.
Here are some quadriceps stretches that make good Osgood Schlatter disease exercises:
- The standing quad stretch: Stand with your feet hip-width apart, hold your ankle in your hand, and pull towards your bum. You’ll feel a stretch in the front of your thigh. Hold this position for 15-30 seconds, and repeat on the other leg.
- Lunges: Take a big step forward with one foot with your back leg straight behind you. Lower your hips towards the ground, and ensure your knee is directly over your ankle. You’ll feel a stretch in the front of your thigh. Hold this position for 15-30 seconds, and repeat on the other leg.
Note: Breathe deeply, and relax into the stretch. Additionally, never push past the point of discomfort, and try to achieve proper form and alignment to avoid injuries.
As the phrase implies, hamstring stretches stretch the hamstring muscles at the back of the thigh. These muscles are responsible for flexing the knee and are usually tight in people with Osgood Schlatter, which causes an increased load on the knee, resulting in even more inflammation.
Stretching the hamstrings can help alleviate hamstring tightness and tension on the patellar tendon, alleviating OSD symptoms. It also helps improve posture. Here are hamstring stretches that are good for individuals diagnosed with OSD:
- Seated Hamstring Stretch: Sit on the floor with one leg in front of you and the other bent with the foot on the floor. Reach forward and try to touch your toes, feeling a stretch in the back of your thigh. Hold this position for 15-30 seconds and repeat on the other leg.
- Standing Hamstring Stretch: Stand facing a wall with your hands on the wall at shoulder height. Step back with one leg, keeping the other leg forward. Bend the front knee and straighten the back leg, feeling a stretch in the back of the thigh. Hold this position for 15-30 seconds and repeat on the other leg.
Calf Muscles Strengthening Exercises
Strengthening exercises for the calf muscles can help alleviate the symptoms of OSD by improving knee stability. Strengthening the calf muscles enables them to absorb shock and reduce knee strain, relieving pain and inflammation. Check out some calf muscle strengthening exercises that are good for this purpose:
- Step ups: Step up onto a step or bench with one foot, and then step back down. This is a particularly ideal Osgood Schlatter exercise because it works both the calf muscles and your quadriceps.
- Calf raises: Standing with your feet hip-width apart, raise onto your toes, and lower your back down. You can do this exercise with or without weight, but starting without is advisable to avoid putting more strain on your knees.
- Heel drops: Stand on the edge of a step with your heels hanging off the edge. Lower your heels toward the ground, and then raise back up.
Note: Start with a small number of repetitions and gradually increase as your symptoms improve. Also, always maintain proper form to prevent other injuries.
Balance exercises improve one’s balance and stability. Generally, they involve training the body to maintain balance and control in various positions and on different surfaces. They target the muscles and joints in the legs, core, and upper body and improve the body’s ability to sense its position in space.
These exercises are suitable for people with Osgood Schlatter because they improve knee stability and overall knee joint stability, reducing susceptibility to pain and injury. Balance exercises that are good for individuals with OSD include:
- Single-leg balance: Stand on one leg, and try to balance as long as possible. As you gain more stability, you may increase the difficulty by closing your eyes or standing on an unstable surface, such as a balance board.
- Heel-to-toe-walk: Walk in a straight line, placing the heel of one foot directly in front of the toes of the other foot
- Tandem walk: Walk in a straight line with one foot in front of the other, with the hell of the front foot touching the toes of the back foot
- BOSU Ball exercises: A BOSU Ball is a device featuring a balance ball on one side and a flat platform on the other. You can do various exercises to improve balance and OSD symptoms, from single-leg balance and squats to lunges.
Additional Osgood Schlatter Exercises
Other excellent Osgood Schlatter exercises to try include:
Straight Leg Raises
Straight leg raises make a good OSD exercise because they help strengthen the quadriceps and the muscles around the knee. To do these raises, lie on your back with your good knee bent and the inflamed one flat and straight on the floor, creating a standard curve on your low back.
Next, press the back of your inflamed knee flat to the floor to tighten the muscles. With your muscles tightened and the leg straight, raise it about 12 inches off the floor, hold for about 6 seconds, lower it slowly, rest for up to 10 seconds, and then repeat about 8-12 times.
Isometric Quadriceps Wall Stretches
Isometric quadriceps wall stretches are a good exercise for individuals with OSD because they stretch the quadriceps reducing tension on the patellar tendon and the growth plate. Stand with the back against the wall and your feet about a hip-width apart to do it.
Next, slowly sink into a squat, pressing your back into the wall behind you. Try to get your quad parallel to the ground for the best results, and ensure your ankles align under your knees. This position ensures you stretch out your muscles without causing too much strain on the knees.
Do it regularly and try to sink deeper daily to promote load tolerance and achieve a maximum quad stretch to alleviate pain effectively in the long run.
Once you build enough strength and knee load tolerance, consider progressing to the isometric knee single-leg wall sit-on-toes exercise. It’s basically the same exercise as the former, except you’ll be doing it on your toes.
Eccentric training refers to exercises that cause muscles to lengthen while contracting. They are an excellent Osgood Schlatter exercise because they strengthen the quadricep muscles responsible for knee extension and are often weak in people with OSD. By strengthening the quadriceps, eccentric training improves knee stability and reduces the stress on the growth plate, conversely alleviating pain and inflammation.
An excellent example of an eccentric exercise is the step-down. To do it, place a single-step footstool or a thick book on the floor, and with your back straight, step up on it with the affected leg, and then slowly lift your other leg onto the step. Try not to push off your back leg when stepping up. Repeat this movement 8-12 times for good results.
Exercise Your Way Out of Osgood Schlatter
Osgood Schlatter is a painful condition, but with proper exercises and stretching, diagnosed individuals can alleviate the symptoms and prevent the condition from worsening. The exercises above are a good place to start but consider working with a physical therapist to develop an Osgood Schlatter exercise program fit for your needs.
Additionally, consider using a knee brace to aid during exercise to help promote faster, easier recovery. Contact us today to learn more about our range of knee braces.