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Orthopedic Problems in Adolescents

Physical health problems encountered during adolescence can affect the development of the body, if not treated. There are few anatomic regions, such as spine, knee and ankle, in adolescents which can get orthopedic problems such as Osgood-Schlatter disease, and Slipped Capital Femoral Epiphysis.

Osgood-Schlatter disease is caused due to injury or overuse of the knee which causes swelling and pain in the area below the knee, above the shin bone. The patellar tendon and the soft tissues surrounding it gets inflamed, because of the constant pulling of the area where the tendon joins the below knee. Usually, adolescents who participate in sports actively and are athletic, such as football, basketball, soccer, ballet and gymnastics, tend to get the Osgood-Schlatter disease. Boys of age eleven to fifteen and girls of age eight to thirteen are at greater risk. The reason why adolescents get this problem is that their bones grow faster when compared to the tendons and muscles in this age and because of this the muscles and tendons stretch and become tight.

orthopedic problems The symptoms of Osgood-Schlatter disease are swelling of knee, tenderness below knee area and limping. The doctor will check the medical history of the patient and will conduct physical examination and diagnostic procedures such as taking an X-ray. The physician will decide on the treatment to be done by studying the overall health, age, medical history, tolerance for certain medications and extent of the disease. Treatment will include medications, rest, compression, elevation, neoprene knee sleeve and physical therapy. The main aim will be to control and limit the knee pain by cutting down on the adolescent’s physical activities. Usually the Osgood-Schlatter disease gets healed over a period of time and in very rare cases is a surgery required.

Slipped capital femoral epiphysis is a problem which affects the hip joint. The ball or head of the thigh bone, also known as femoral head slips from the thigh bone’s neck. Because of this the hip joint becomes stiff and painful. Slipped capital femoral epiphysis is the most common disorder of the hip which can happen in both the hips or one and it is more common in boys when compared to girls. Basically, adolescents of the age ten to eighteen years and who are overweight can be affected by this condition. The condition can arise over a time interval of few weeks or years. The condition, if resulted because of trauma and is also called acute slip and if results after a period of time is called chronic slip. Slipped capital femoral epiphysis is caused because of medications, radiation treatment, thyroid problems, and chemotherapy.

orthopedic problems adolescents There are three degrees of intensity of slipped capital femoral epiphysis, mild, moderate and severe. In mild slipped capital femoral epiphysis, only one third of femoral head slips from the thigh bone. In moderate, one third to half slips and in severe, more than half of the femoral head slips. The symptoms of this condition are pain in hip which increases upon movement, pain in thigh, knee & groin and limpness in the leg. When an adolescent walks there will be a clicking sound in the hip and his/her legs will be turned outwards.

Apart from studying the medical history of the patient, the doctor will recommend diagnostic procedures such as bone scans, X-ray, magnetic resonance imaging and blood test. The bone scans will determine the arthritic changes and degenerative changes in the joints, which helps to detect tumors & bone diseases and the cause of pain and inflammation. The X-ray will give the inside picture of the bones, tissues and organs. The magnetic resonance imaging provide detailed image of the structures within the body with the help of large magnets. It is best if slipped capital femoral epiphysis is determined in the early stages, so that the femur bone’s head doesn’t slip off any further. The adolescent may need to undergo a surgery along with physical therapy.

Scoliosis in Adolescents

Normally, a spine when viewed from rear should appear straight but if the spine is lateral or curved or sideways or rotated then it is affected by scoliosis. It gives an appearance as if the person has leaned to a side. According to Scoliosis Research Society the definition of scoliosis is the curving of the spine at an angle greater than 10 degrees on an x-ray. Scoliosis is a kind of spinal deformity and shouldn’t be confused to poor posture. Usually there are 4 common kinds of patterns of curves experienced in Scoliosis which are: Thoracic wherein the right side has ninety percent curves, lumbar wherein left side has seventy percent curves, thoracolumbar wherein right side has eighty percent curves and double major where both right and left sides have curves.

In majority of the cases, as high as eight to eighty five percent, the cause of the deformity is unknown, this is also known as idiopathic scoliosis. It is observed that females have scoliosis more commonly than males. According to some established facts 3 to 5 children per 1000 has chances of developing spinal curves which is a number big enough requiring medical treatment. There are three types of scoliosis that can develop in children namely congenital, neuromuscular and idiopathic. Congenital scoliosis is seen in 1 out every 1,000 births which is caused due to vertebrae’s failure in normal formation, vertebrae is absent, vertebrae is formed partially and vertebrae is not separated. Neuromuscular scoliosis is linked with various neurological conditions and particularly in children who don’t walk like cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, spina bifida, tumors in spinal cord, paralytic conditions and neurofibromatosis. The cause of third type of scoliosis called Idiopathic scoliosis is still unknown. It is further divided into infantile, juvenile and adolescent scoliosis. Infantile scoliosis occurs up to the age of 3 years from birth wherein the vertebrae curve is towards left and is more frequently observed in boys. The curve takes normal shape with the growth of child. Juvenile scoliosis is common in children of age three to nine. Adolescent scoliosis is common in kids of age ten to eighteen and this is also the most common form of scoliosis occurring more in girls than boys.

The other possible causes of the deformity include hereditary reasons, different lengths of legs, injuries, infections and tumors. There are numerous symptoms attributed to scoliosis which can vary from individual to individual. The symptoms are: Difference in heights of the shoulders, off-centered head, difference in the height or position of the hip, difference in the position or height of shoulder blade, different arm lengths in straight standing position and lastly different height back sides when the body is bent forward. Other symptoms include leg pain, back pain and change in bladder and bowel habits do not belong to the symptoms of idiopathic scoliosis and require medical checkup by a doctor. The symptoms may be similar to other problems related to spinal cord or other deformities or could result from an infection or injury and consulting a doctor is the best bet in this situation who may conduct diagnosis to know what exactly it is.

The diagnosis of scoliosis requires thorough medical history of the teenager, diagnostic tests and also physical examination. The doctor asks for entire prenatal history, birth history and also would want to know if anyone in the family has scoliosis. The doctor may also ask for the milestones related with the development of the teenager since some kinds of scoliosis are known to be related to neuromuscular disorders. The delay in development may need additional medical evaluation. Doctor may also prescribe x-ray, CT scan and MRI scan of the back to measure the degree of curvature in the spinal. There are various treatments available for scoliosis which is decided by the physician depending on teenager’s age, medical history and health in general. The method of treatment also depends on the extent to which disease has reached. The tolerance of the teenager to certain medicines, therapies and procedures are also taken into consideration. Expectations and opinion of the parents or teenager is also the criteria in deciding the type of treatment. The main aim of the treatment is stop the curve from progressing and avert deformity. The treatments include observation and repetitive examinations, bracing and surgery to correct the defect.

Sprains and Strains in Adolescents

Sprains and strains are among the majority of the injuries caused while playing sports. Sports injuries can be caused by small trauma which involves ligaments, muscles and tendons including bruises, sprains and strains. The body part which is most commonly involved in spraining or straining is the ankle. The 3 ligaments that are involved during ankle sprain or strain include anterior talofubular ligament, posterior talofibular ligament and calcaneofibular ligament.

An injury caused to the soft tissue as a result of a direct force like fall, kick and blow is called a contusion or a bruise. A sprain is nothing but a ligament injury which is wrenched or twisted. Sprains usually affect knees, wrists and ankles. On the other hand a strain is an injury caused to a tendon or muscle which usually results from force, stretching and overuse.

Sprains/Strains are usually diagnosed by a physician after a physical examination. The physician asks for thorough medical history of the adolescent and asks various questions that lead to the cause of the injury. Various diagnostic procedures are also available which also helps in evaluating the problem. X-ray is one of the oldest and common diagnostic tests done to know the extent and exact location of the injury. An x-ray uses electromagnetic waves to get photos of internal tissues, organs and bones onto a film. MRI scan is one of the recently evolved diagnostic procedures which also help in evaluating a physical injury. This procedure actually called Magnetic Resonance Imaging makes use of bug magnets, computer and radio frequencies to get detailed pictures of structures and organs inside the body. Another diagnostic procedure called Computed Tomography Scan or CT scan is also used to evaluate the extent and location of injury. This procedure uses a blend of computers and x-rays to get cross sectional pictures in horizontal and vertical alignment. It shows thorough pictures of any part of the body like muscles, bones, fat and organs. They provide more information than conventional x-rays.

There are various symptoms of strain and sprain depending on each teen’s physical condition and they may vary accordingly. One of the symptoms includes pain in and around the area injury. There could also be a swelling around the injured area. Some teens also experience difficulty when they use or move the area of the body that is injured. Some teenagers also undergo bruises or redness in the area that is injured. Many times the symptoms of sprains and strains may look similar to other medical conditions and a doctor’s advice is the best option in this scenario.

Depending on various factors the treatment of sprains and strains will be prescribed by the teenager’s physician that include teenager’s age, overall health of the teenager, and medical history of the adolescent. To what extent the teen is injured is also a factor in determining the nature of treatment. A teenager’s level of tolerance to certain medications, therapies and procedures is also taken into consideration before opting for a particular method of treatment. The treatment also depends of what expectations one has and also preference and opinion.

Various options available for treatment include things like restriction of the activity after the injury, application of cast/splint on the injured spot, crutches or wheelchair, physical therapy which involves stretching exercises to give strength to the muscles, tendons and ligaments that are injured and last but not the least is the surgery which is opted for in worst case scenario.

In the long-term scenario bruises, sprains and strains heal pretty quickly in kids and teenagers but it is important that the adolescent sticks to the restrictions imposed during the treatment and healing process like restriction of activity and regularly attending physical therapy sessions if any. It is noted that majority of the sports related injuries results either due to traumatic injury or excessive use of muscles and joints. But, they can be avoided and prevented with right training, by wearing right protective gears and by using right equipment for training.

Tennis Elbow in Adolescents

Tennis elbow is a condition in which tendon fibers that attach on epicondyle on the elbow’s exterior degenerates. The tendons talked about here anchor the muscles that help wrist and hand to lift. Although tennis elbow occurs mostly in patients of thirty to fifty years of age but it can happen to people of any age. Also tennis elbow affects almost fifty percent of teenagers who are in racquet sports thus the name “tennis elbow”. But still most of the patients who suffer with tennis elbow are people who don’t play racquet sports. Majority if the times there isn’t any specific injury before the symptoms start showing up. Tennis elbow can also happen to people who use their forearm muscles frequently and vigorously for day to day work and recreational activities. Ironically some patients develop the condition without any of the activity related reasons that leads to the symptoms.

The symptoms of tennis elbow include severe burning pain on the elbow’s exterior region. In majority of the cases this starts as a slow and mild pain gradually worsening with the passage of few weeks or sometimes months. The pain worsens when one tries to lift objects. In some cases it may pain even while lifting light objects like a book or full coffee cup. In the severest cases it can pain even at the movement of the elbow.

The diagnosis of the tennis elbow involves physician inquiring about the medical history of the teenager and a physical examination of the elbow by pressing directly on the part where bone is prominent on the elbow’s exterior to check if it causes any pain. The physician may also ask the teenager to lift the fingers or wrist and apply pressure to check if it causes any pain again. X-rays are never opted for diagnosis. However a MRI scan may be done to see changes in tendons at the attachment to the bone.

There are many treatment options available and in majority of the cases non-surgical treatment is given a try. The ultimate goal of the 1st phase of the treatment is pain relief. Be ready to hear from the physician to stop any activity leading to the symptoms. The doctor may also tell the teenager to apply ice to elbow’s exterior and he/she may also tell the teenager to take anti-inflammatory medicines for relief from pain.

The symptoms also diminished with the help of orthotics. The physician may also want to go for counterforce braces and also wrist splints which can greatly cut down symptoms by providing rest to tendons and muscles. The symptoms should show signs of recovery within 4 to 6 weeks otherwise next option would be to go for a injection called corticosteroid in the vicinity of the elbow. This greatly reduces pain and is also very safe to use. There are many side affects involved if it is overused.
Once there is a relief from pain the treatment’s next phase starts which involve modification of activities in order to prevent the symptoms from returning. The doctor may also prescribe the teenager to go for physical therapy which may include stretching exercises to gradually increase the strength of the affected tendons and muscles. Physical therapies have high success rates and return your elbow back to normal working again. Again non-surgical procedures are highly successful in eighty five to ninety percent patients.

Surgical procedure is considered only when patients undergo relentless pain that doesn’t improve even after 6 months of non-surgical treatment. The procedure involves removal of affected tendon tissue and attaching it back to bone. The surgery is done on outpatient basis and does not need stay at the hospital. The surgery is done by making a small incision on elbow’s exterior’s bony prominence. In recent years a surgery known as arthroscopic surgery has also been developed but no major benefits have been seen using it over the traditional method of open incision.