To understand what osteochondritis is, we can first break down the name. “Osteo” means bone, “chondros” means cartilage, “itis” means inflammation. Osteochondritis occurs when the bone and cartilage of a joint become inflamed and die due to a lack of blood supply. This can lead to fragments of bone and cartilage breaking loose inside of a joint and causing more irritation. It tends to occur more in adolescents and young adults, in particular in those who are active in sports.
In this article, we will cover what joints are affected, some of the causes, the common symptoms of osteochondritis, what preventative measures can be taken and how it can be treated.
What joints are affected?
The most common joint osteochondritis is found to affect is the knee. But it can also occur in the ankles, elbows, shoulders and hips.
What are the main causes?
– Overuse injury – In adolescents and young adults particularly those involved in sports, especially high impact sports such as running or jumping. This can be because the bone grows faster than its blood supply causing it to weaken and fragment.
– Genetic – In some families there is a genetic mutation.
– Injury or trauma – from a fall or impact to a joint.
– A deficient diet – if the body is not getting enough nutrients for bone growth.
Depending on the joint that’s affected, signs and symptoms of osteochondritis might include:
– Popping or snapping noises – this can be because the fragment in the joint gets stuck when the joint is being moved. So there can be popping or snapping noises.
– Weakness or buckling – the joint might feel weak like it may give way when putting pressure on the joint.
– Swelling and fluid on the joint – due to inflammation
– Pain in the joint, which can be elicited by activity, such as playing sports, running, walking up or down a hill or stairs.
– Reduced range of movement – it might be difficult or not possible to fully straighten or bend the joint.
– Avoid overuse of the joint – limit the amount of strenuous sports.
– Take enough rest in between sport activities.
– Eat a healthy, balanced diet.
How can it be treated?
For children under 18 years of age, resting the joint from sports and physical activities will usually resolve this issue in 6-12 weeks. Following which very gradual return to sports is necessary.
Osteopathy can help reduce the inflammation, desensitise the surrounding tissues of the joint – the muscles, ligaments, encourage blood flow. As well as realign joints to reduce mechanical loading, which may be aggravating the issue.
In some cases, surgery is necessary to remove the fragment that is blocking and irritating the joint. In this case, rehabilitation with a physical therapist is recommended for up to 4-5 months to return to normal activity.