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Sometimes I get knee pains and I can barely walk, usually when this happens I swell up right above my knee cap. What can this mean?

There is a broad differential for knee pain and it is important to determine if the you have any history of trauma.

Given your young age, one of the most likely causes of your pain is Osgood-Schlatter Disease, otherwise known as “growing pains.” Osgood-Schlatter Disease is a benign condition and one of the most common causes of knee pain in adolescents – estimated to affect up to 20%. The symptoms include pain and swelling attributed to the bone growth rate exceeding that of the muscle growth rate causing the tendons to be overstretched and inflamed.

Osgood-Schlatter Disease is a self-limited condition that varies in intensity and can take anywhere from months to years for complete resolution. Generally, no medications are needed and daily icing of the knee is sufficient to resolve the swelling. But if pain and swelling persists, nonsteroidal antiinflammatories (NSAIDs) such as Ibuprofen (brand names Motrin or Advil) are prescribed to decrease the swelling and pain.

As Osgood-Schlatter Disease is a diagnosis of exclusion, acute and chronic pathologies should be ruled out by your primary care physician with a physical exam, X-ray imaging or MRI imaging.