Osteochondrosis is a family of disorders that affects the growth of bones in children and adolescents. The disruption of blood flow to the joints is often the cause. Though certain diseases in this family can affect older adults, they’re most likely to affect children and teenagers whose bones are still growing.
Osteochondroses may cause pain and disability.
A number of diseases fall into the category of osteochondrosis. They affect different parts of the body. They’re typically grouped into one of three categories based on where they occur. They can be articular, physeal, or nonarticular.
Articular diseases occur in joint areas and include:
- Legg-Calve-Perthes disease, which affects the hip
- Panner’s disease, which affects the elbow
- Frieberg’s disease or Frieberg’s infraction, which affects the second toe
- Kohler disease, which affects the foot
The main physeal disease is Scheuermann's disease, or juvenile kyphosis. This condition affects the intervertebral joints of the spinal column. These are the joints between the bones of your spine.
Nonarticular diseases can affect any part of your skeleton. The most common nonarticular disease is Osgood-Schlatter disease, which affects the knee. Osgood-Schlatter disease causes irritation of the growth plate in the area of the tibial tuberosity, which is the top part of your shinbone, right under your knee. Sever’s disease, which affects the heel, is another type of nonarticular osteochondrosis.
Osteochondritis dissecans is another form of osteochondrosis. It occurs when small pieces of cartilage and bone become dislodged in the joint due to a lack of blood flow. This can occur in any part of the body and is most common in the knee.
Though some cases of osteochondrosis can occur and heal without the affected person even knowing, the most common symptom is pain near the affected joint. Pain can occur due to either physical activity or pressure applied to the area.
Other symptoms may include:
- joint popping
- joint locking
- joint weakness
- joint stiffness
- an inability to fully straighten the affected limb
Causes and risk factors
Osteochondrosis has no single, known cause.
Common factors include stress to the bone, reduced blood supply to the affected area, and trauma to the bone. Osteochondroses can also occur as a result of athletic activity and sports injuries.
Osteochondrosis is almost exclusively found in children and teenagers up to around age 20. Children who engage in sports are more likely to develop osteochondroses. It’s more common in boys, which may be because boys are at higher risk for injuries than girls.
Diagnosis and treatments
Doctors can easily diagnose osteochondrosis using X-rays. A number of treatments for osteochondrosis are available and include the following:
- Doctors often suggest resting the area of the body where there’s pain.
- Sometimes, you can use a brace or a cast.
- For some types of osteochondrosis, exercises and stretches can help strengthen the muscles and tendons around the affected joint.
- In rare cases of osteochondritis dissecans, surgery may be necessary to remove problematic bone fragments.
Your outlook can vary depending on which type of osteochondrosis you have. Osteochondroses often heal without treatment or with some minor help from braces or a cast. They often heal without treatment within weeks to a few months of their occurrence.