Top 4 causes of joint pains in children
When children complain of pains and aches in their joints, there can be a number of causes behind the pain. Be it growing pains, injury from overuse or autoimmune disease (such as lupus), it helps to quickly identify these causes.
The giveaway symptoms are crampy aches in the knees, ankles or in the front of the legs that tend to occur in the evenings. Sometimes, these are severe enough to wake the child up at night but will subside by the next day.
These symptoms are usually caused by heightened activity (especially after a more active day) that wear the muscles out. A good massage and stretches before bedtime should be sufficient in treating these pains.
Injury from overuse
When a child experiences a tingling sensation, numbness, ache or stiffness of the joint, it likely due to an injury from overuse.
Caused by repetitive trauma introduced by wrong exercise techniques, these injuries can also be caused by overdoing the exercises when the body is not ready for it (not suitably warmed up or trained up).
The treatment includes adequate rest for the affected region. And the sensible pacing or gradual rebuilding of physical strength with correct techniques.
The above two causes are very common. The following two autoimmune (when the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks the body’s own normal cells) causes are less common but occur in children too.
Juvenile idiopathic arthritis
The main symptoms for juvenile idiopathic arthritis are persistent swelling, warmth, pain, and stiffness in one or more joints. Limping may occur if the joints of the leg are affected.
This is the time to consult a paediatric rheumatologist for advice and obtain anti-inflammatory medication. Medication to suppress the overactive immune system may be necessary too. Physiotherapy may be warranted.
Systemic lupus erythematosus
A peculiar symptom for systemic lupus erythematosus is a persistent red rash over the cheeks (malar rash). Other signs are mouth ulcers, joint pains and stiffness, accompanied by a prolonged or recurrent fever.
Seek proper treatment by consulting a paediatric rheumatologist for medication to suppress the immune system.
This article was fact-checked by Dr Ooi Pei Ling, paediatrician and paediatric rheumatologist at Mount Alvernia Clinic, International Child & Adolescent Clinic, Mount Alvernia Hospital & Gleneagles Hospital.