Knee pain in teens results from overuse, specific knee injuries (blow to the knee) or medical conditions including Osgood-Schlatter disease, juvenile arthritis and osteochondritis dissecans. Treatment depends on the cause of the pain but may include RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation) anti-inflammatories and physical therapy.
Knee pain isn’t a condition that only happens to older people. Despite being young, your teenager can develop knee pain too.
Knee pain in teens is a common result of overuse, but also results from specific knee injuries (from a blow to the knee, falls, or abnormal twisting or bending) and medical conditions that affect the knee. Knee pain can also be temporary and not related to an injury, but rather a change in your teen’s level of activity or sport.
Because of the many different reasons for knee pain, if your teen complains of pain, it’s wise to get it checked. Never think that knee pain in your teen is simply growing pains. This is not a typical cause of knee pain in a teenager.
Common knee pain problems in your teenager can be generally divided into three types:
Anterior knee pain happens when your teen’s kneecap is pulled out of its groove from increased pressure. Increased pressure on the knee joint is caused by:
Knee pain resulting from sprains, strains and tears to ligaments and tendons or injuries to other soft tissues. These conditions include:
Medical conditions that can affect your teen’s knee include:
Any sport or activity that involves running and jumping are usually the ones that can cause knee pain in your teen. Playing on multiple teams and in multiple sports are more likely to cause knee pain.
Conditions that can affect both of your teen’s knees at the same time include:
Symptoms depend on what’s causing your teen’s knee pain.
Anterior knee pain:
Trauma (hit) to knee:
Your healthcare provider will ask about your teen’s knee pain:
Your provider will perform a physical exam, checking:
Your provider may order imaging tests including X-rays (to examine bones) or a CT scan or MRI (to look at soft tissues, such as tendons, ligaments).
Treatments depend on the cause of your teen’s pain.
Pain from overuse and general knee pain management tips include:
Sindling-Larsen Johansson syndrome:
Simple nonsurgical remedies are all that is needed for managing most knee pain in teens. However, because there are so many potential causes of knee pain, some conditions many require surgery – especially those due to soft-tissue tears and trauma that break bones. You and your healthcare provider will discuss all treatment options and development a treatment plan that usually starts with nonsurgical methods, unless surgery is the only treatment method.
Most knee pain that is caused by injury or overuse (not those caused by medical condition) can be prevented with some attention and work by your teen, including:
Most knee pain in teenagers can be managed with simple treatments. However, many soft-tissue tears and bone breaks require surgery. Most teenagers recover without long-term problems if they follow the recover plan provided by their healthcare providers. Because there are many causes of knee pain, be sure to ask your healthcare provider for specific information on long-term prognosis for your teen's knee condition.
Make an appointment to see your healthcare provider if:
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 04/30/2021.
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