How to Ease Teen-age Athletes' Leg Pain?

Is there anything my child can eat or do to help control the pain of Osgood-Schlatter disease?

– April 18, 2002

Updated on 6/30/2005

Osgood-Schlatter disease is a condition of overuse of the leg that affects young athletes, usually boys in their pre-teens or teenage years who are going through a growth spurt. This disorder seems to result from excessive pull of the quadriceps, the powerful muscle in the front of the thigh, on the patellar tendon, which run through the knee into the shin. Osgood-Schlatter involves inflammation of the tendon or even its minor separation from the shin bone. Pain and swelling occur just below the knee – symptoms that are most pronounced when youngsters are running, jumping or going up or down stairs.

Fortunately, Osgood-Schlatter disease goes away on its own, usually within 6 to 18 months. In the meantime, young athletes should take it easy. This means cutting down on the time spent on sports, running more slowly, jumping less often. In addition to rest, apply ice to the painful area for 20 minutes three times a day, wrap the knee with an elastic bandage and then elevate the leg. Taking an anti-inflammatory drug such as ibuprofen can help, too.

I can’t suggest any dietary measures to help, but acupuncture might ease the pain. In addition, you could try topical application of DMSO (dimethly sulfoxide), a simple chemical made from wood pulp that penetrates the skin and promotes healing of pockets of inflammation. You can buy DMSO in most health food stores (if you find 100 percent or 90 percent solutions, dilute them with distilled water. The mixture will get hot; allow it to cool before using). Paint it on the affected area with cotton and let it dry. Apply it three times a day for three days. If it doesn’t help, discontinue use. If your son does notice improvement, cut down to twice a day for three more days, then once a day for a final three days.

Andrew Weil, M.D.

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