Bones, Muscles, and Joints Problems

Problems With the Bones, Muscles, and Joints

As strong as bones are, they can break. Muscles can weaken, and joints (as well as tendons, ligaments, and cartilage) can be damaged by injury or disease.

Problems that can affect the bones, muscles, and joints include:

  • Arthritis. Arthritis is the inflammation of a joint, and people who have it experience swelling, warmth, pain, and often have trouble moving. Although we often think of arthritis as a condition that affects only older people, arthritis can also occur in children and teens. Health problems that involve arthritis in kids and teens include juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (JRA), lupus, Lyme disease, and septic arthritis (a bacterial infection of a joint).
  • Fracture. A fracture occurs when a bone breaks; it may crack, snap, or shatter. After a fracture, new bone cells fill the gap and repair the break. Applying a strong plaster cast, which keeps the bone in the correct position until it heals, is the usual treatment. If the fracture is complicated, metal pins and plates can be placed to better stabilize it while the bone heals.
  • Muscular dystrophy. Muscular dystrophy is an inherited group of diseases that affect the muscles, causing them to weaken and break down over time. The most common form in childhood is called Duchenne muscular dystrophy, and it most often affects boys.
  • Osgood-Schlatter disease(OSD). Osgood-Schlatter disease is an inflammation (pain and swelling) of the bone, cartilage, and/or tendon at the top of the shinbone, where the tendon from the kneecap attaches. OSD usually strikes active teens around the beginning of their growth spurts, the approximately 2-year period during which they grow most rapidly.
  • Osteomyelitis. Osteomyelitis is a bone infection often caused by Staphylococcus aureus bacteria, though other types of bacteria can cause it, too. In kids and teens, osteomyelitis usually affects the long bones of the arms and legs. Osteomyelitis often develops after an injury or trauma.
  • Osteoporosis. In osteoporosis, bone tissue becomes brittle, thin, and spongy. Bones break easily, and the spine sometimes begins to crumble and collapse. Although the condition usually affects older people, kids and teens with eating disorders can get the condition, as can girls with female athlete triad — a combination of three conditions that some girls who exercise or play sports may be at risk for: disordered eating, amenorrhea (loss of a girl's period), and osteoporosis. Participation in sports where a thin appearance is valued can put a girl at risk for female athlete triad.
  • Repetitive stress injuries (RSIs). RSIs are a group of injuries that happen when too much stress is placed on a part of the body, resulting in inflammation (pain and swelling), muscle strain, or tissue damage. This stress generally occurs from repeating the same movements over and over again. RSIs are becoming more common in kids and teens because they spend more time than ever using computers. Playing sports like tennis that involve repetitive motions can also lead to RSIs. Kids and teens who spend a lot of time playing musical instruments or video games are also at risk for RSIs.
  • Scoliosis. Every person's spine curves a little bit; a certain amount of curvature is necessary for people to move and walk properly. But 3–5 people out of 1,000 have scoliosis, which causes the spine to curve too much. It can be hereditary, so someone who has scoliosis often has family members who have it.
  • Strains and sprains. Strains occur when muscles or tendons are overstretched. Sprains are an overstretching or a partial tearing of the ligaments. Strains usually happen when a person takes part in a strenuous activity when the muscles haven't properly warmed up or the muscle is not used to the activity (such as a new sport or playing a familiar sport after a long break). Sprains, on the other hand, are usually the result of an injury, such as twisting an ankle or knee. A common sprain injury is a torn Achilles tendon, which connects the calf muscles to the heel. This tendon can snap, but it usually can be repaired by surgery. Both strains and sprains are common in kids and teens because they're active and still growing.
  • Tendinitis. This common sports injury that usually happens after overexercising a muscle. The tendon and tendon sheath become inflamed, which can be painful. Resting the muscles and taking anti-inflammatory medication can bring relief.