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Joint Pain In Children: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis And How To Treat It

Joint pain is common in children and can be due to several non-inflammatory conditions such as the benign joint hypermobility syndrome (BJHS) and growing pains (GP). A research study showed that more than 30% of school children experience chronic musculoskeletal pain [1] . In most cases, joint pain in children is mostly caused due to growing pains.

According to a study by the American Family Physician, 16% of school-age children experience limb pain [2] . Joint pain can be difficult for children to characterize. Usually, the symptoms of acute joint pain in children are obvious but, chronic joint pain symptoms can be rather difficult to determine.

What Causes Joint Pain In Children [3]

  • Growing pains

Growing pains occur in children aged between 3 and 7 years and it is characterized as an ache or throbbing sensation in the knees, legs, head or abdomen.

Growing pain occurs in the evening or night and goes away by morning and they are often accompanied by headache or abdominal pain.

  • Juvenile idiopathic arthritis

Juvenile idiopathic arthritis causes pain and swelling in one or more joints, which can affect the movement and strength of a child.
If it isn't diagnosed and treated on time, juvenile idiopathic arthritis can affect bone growth and lead to serious complications [4]

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  • Leukaemia

It is a cancer of the blood or bone marrow and is the most common type of cancer in children. This can cause bone and joint pain in children.

  • Lupus

It is an autoimmune disorder that can damage nearly every organ in the body. It mostly occurs in females in their teenage years. The symptoms of lupus include fever, hair loss, pain and swelling in the joints, tiredness, and skin rashes on the nose.

  • Lyme disease

Lyme disease is a bacterial infection caused by the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi spread by ticks. The disease is passed onto the children through a tick bite. The symptoms include joint pain, fatigue, fever or chills, and facial paralysis.

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Symptoms Of Joint Pain In Children [5]

  • Limping
  • Rash
  • Persistent fever
  • Swollen, red or tender joints
  • Swelling or stiffness
  • Fatigue
  • Weight loss
  • Loss of appetite

When To See A Doctor

If the joint pain is persistent and severe and if your child is experiencing any of the above symptoms, take your child to the doctor.

Complications Of Joint Pain In Children

  • Growth problems
  • Muscle weakness
  • Lack of strength
  • Loss of movement

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Diagnosis Of Joint Pain In Children

First, the doctor will ask about the child's symptoms and medical history. Based on the given information, physical examination, blood tests and X-rays are conducted by the doctor for diagnosing joint pain.

Treatment Of Joint Pain In Children


Over-the-counter painkiller medications, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, can aid in relieving aches caused by joint pain [6] .

Stretching exercises

Stretching the calves and thighs gently during the day may help ease or prevent joint pain symptoms. Some stretching exercises can be challenging for younger children, so it is advisable to ask a doctor what types of exercises will suit your child.


Gently massaging the affected area can ease the symptoms and also bathing them in warm water before bedtime can help reduce the severity of aches and pains [7] .

View Article References
  1. [1] Sperotto, F., Brachi, S., Vittadello, F., & Zulian, F. (2015). Musculoskeletal pain in schoolchildren across puberty: a 3-year follow-up study.Pediatric Rheumatology,13(1), 16.
  2. [2] Junnila, J. L., & Cartwright, V. W. (2006). Chronic musculoskeletal pain in children: part I. Initial evaluation.Am Fam Physician,74(1), 115-22.
  3. [3] Mohanta, M. P. (2014). Growing pains: practitioners’ dilemma.Indian pediatrics,51(5), 379-383.3. Goodyear-Smith, F., & Arroll, B. (2006). Growing pains.BMJ (Clinical research ed.),333(7566), 456–457.
  4. [4] Goodyear-Smith, F., & Arroll, B. (2006). Growing pains.BMJ (Clinical research ed.),333(7566), 456–457.
  5. [5] Abujam, B., Mishra, R., & Aggarwal, A. (2014). Prevalence of musculoskeletal complaints and juvenile idiopathic arthritis in children from a developing country: a school‐based study.International journal of rheumatic diseases,17(3), 256-260.
  6. [6] Kimura, Y., & Southwood, T. R. (2010). Evaluation of the child with joint pain or swelling.
  7. [7] Stinson, J. N., Luca, N. J., & Jibb, L. A. (2012). Assessment and management of pain in juvenile idiopathic arthritis.Pain research & management,17(6), 391–396.
Story first published: Friday, November 22, 2019, 16:30 [IST]