Abdominal Pain - Female
Abdominal Pain - Male
Acne
Animal or Human Bite
Antibiotics: When Do They Help
Arm Injury
Arm Pain
Asthma Attack
Athlete's Foot
Back Pain
Bed Bug Bite
Bee or Yellow Jacket Sting
Blisters
Bottle-Feeding Formula Questions
Breast-Feeding Questions
Bruise
Burn
Chest Pain
Chickenpox
Circumcision Problems
Colds
Constipation
Cough
Coughs: Meds or Home Remedies
Cracked or Dry Skin
Cradle Cap
Croup
Crying Baby - Before 3 Months Old
Crying Child - 3 Months and Older
Cut, Scrape, or Bruise
Diaper Rash
Diarrhea
Diarrhea Diseases From Travel
Dizziness
Drinking Fluids - Decreased
Dry Skin
Ear - Congestion
Ear - Discharge
Ear - Injury
Ear - Pulling At or Rubbing
Ear - Swimmer's
Ear Infection Questions
Earache
Earwax Buildup
Ebola Exposure
Eczema
Emergency Symptoms Not to Miss
Eye - Allergy
Eye - Foreign Body or Object
Eye - Injury
Eye - Pus or Discharge
Eye - Red Without Pus
Eye - Swelling
Fever
Fever - How to Take the Temperature
Fever - Myths Versus Facts
Fifth Disease
Finger Injury
Fire Ant Sting
Flu
Fluid Intake Decreased
Food Allergy
Foreskin Care Questions
Frostbite
Genital Injury - Female
Genital Injury - Male
Hair Loss
Hand-Foot-And-Mouth Disease HFMD
Hay Fever
Head Injury
Headache
Heat Exposure and Reactions
Heat Rash
Hives
Human or Animal Bite
Immunization Reactions
Impetigo - Infected Sores
Infection Exposure Questions
Influenza - Seasonal
Influenza Exposure
Insect Bite
Jaundiced Newborn
Jellyfish Sting
Leg Injury
Leg Pain
Lice - Head
Lymph Nodes - Swollen
Medication - Refusal to Take
Mental Health Problems
Molluscum
Mosquito Bite
Mosquito-Borne Diseases from Travel
Motion Sickness
Mouth Injury
Mouth Ulcers
Neck Pain or Stiffness
Newborn Appearance Questions
Newborn Illness - How to Recognize
Newborn Rashes and Birthmarks
Newborn Reflexes and Behavior
Nose Allergy Hay Fever
Nose Injury
Nosebleed
Penis-Scrotum Symptoms
Pinworms
Poison Ivy - Oak - Sumac
Puncture Wound
Rash or Redness - Localized
Rash or Redness - Widespread
Reflux Spitting Up
Ringworm
Roseola
Scabies
Scrape
Sinus Pain or Congestion
Skin Foreign Body or Object
Skin Injury
Skin Lump
Sliver or Splinter
Sore Throat
Spider Bite
Spitting Up - Reflux
Stomach Pain - Female
Stomach Pain - Male
Stools - Blood In
Stools - Unusual Color
Strep Throat Exposure
Strep Throat Infection
Sty
Sunburn
Suture Questions
Swallowed Foreign Body or Object
Swallowed Harmless Substance
Swimmer's Itch - Lakes and Oceans
Tear Duct - Blocked
Teething
Thrush
Tick Bite
Toe Injury
Toenail - Ingrown
Tooth Injury
Toothache
Umbilical Cord Symptoms
Urinary Tract Infection - Female
Urination Pain - Female
Urination Pain - Male
Vaginal Symptoms
Vomiting With Diarrhea
Vomiting Without Diarrhea
Warts
Wheezing Other Than Asthma
Wound Infection

Resources

Is Your Child Sick?TM


Leg Pain

Is this your child's symptom?

  • Pain in the legs
  • Includes hip, knee, ankle and toe joints
  • Includes minor muscle strain from overuse
  • Muscle cramps are also covered
  • The pain is not caused by an injury

If NOT, try one of these:


Causes

  • Main Causes. Muscle spasms (cramps) and strained muscles (overuse) account for most leg pain.
  • Muscle Cramps. Brief pains (1 to 15 minutes) are often due to muscle spasms (cramps). Foot or calf muscles are especially prone to cramps that occur during sports. Foot or leg cramps may also awaken your child from sleep. Muscle cramps that occur during hard work or sports are called heat cramps. They often respond to extra fluids and salt.
  • Muscle Overuse (Strained Muscles). Constant leg pains are often from hard work or sports. Examples are running or jumping too much. This type of pain can last several hours or up to 7 days. Muscle pain can also be from a forgotten injury that occurred the day before.
  • Growing Pains. 10% of healthy children have harmless leg pains that come and go. These are often called growing pains (although they have nothing to do with growth). Growing pains usually occur in the calf or thigh muscles. They usually occur on both sides, not one side. They occur late in the day. Most likely, they are due to running or playing hard. They usually last 10 to 30 minutes.
  • Osgood Schlatter Disease. Pain, swelling and tenderness of the bone (tibia) just below the kneecap. The patellar tendon attaches to this bone. Caused by excessive jumping or running. Peak age is young teens. Harmless and goes away in 1 - 2 years.
  • Viral Infections. Muscle aches in both legs are common with viral illness, especially influenza.
  • Serious Causes. Fractures, deep vein thrombosis (blood clot in leg). Also, neuritis (a nerve infection) and arthritis (a joint infection).
  • Septic Arthritis (Serious). A bacterial infection of any joint space is a medical emergency. The symptoms are severe joint pain, joint stiffness and a high fever.
  • Toxic Synovitis of the hip is a harmless condition. It can imitate a septic arthritis of the hip. The symptoms are a limp, moderate pain and usually no fever. Toxic synovitis tends to occur in toddlers after jumping too much.

Pain Scale

  • Mild: Your child feels pain and tells you about it. But, the pain does not keep your child from any normal activities. School, play and sleep are not changed.
  • Moderate: The pain keeps your child from doing some normal activities. It may wake him or her up from sleep.
  • Severe: The pain is very bad. It keeps your child from doing all normal activities.

When to Call for Leg Pain

Call 911 Now

  • Not moving or too weak to stand
  • You think your child has a life-threatening emergency

Call Doctor Now or Go to ER

  • Fever and pain in one leg only
  • Can't move a hip, knee or ankle normally
  • Swollen joint
  • Calf pain on 1 side lasts more than 12 hours
  • Numbness (loss of feeling) lasts more than 1 hour
  • Severe pain or cries when leg is touched or moved
  • Your child looks or acts very sick
  • You think your child needs to be seen, and the problem is urgent

Call Doctor Within 24 Hours

  • Walking is not normal (has a limp)
  • Fever and pain in both legs
  • Bright red area on skin
  • You think your child needs to be seen, but the problem is not urgent

Call Doctor During Office Hours

  • Cause of leg pain is not clear
  • Leg pain lasts more than 7 days
  • Leg pains or muscle cramps are a frequent problem
  • You have other questions or concerns

Self Care at Home

  • Muscle cramps in the calf or foot
  • Strained muscles caused by overuse (exercise or work)
  • Growing pains suspected
  • Cause is clear and harmless. (Examples are tight new shoes or a recent shot)

Call 911 Now

  • Not moving or too weak to stand
  • You think your child has a life-threatening emergency

Call Doctor Now or Go to ER

  • Fever and pain in one leg only
  • Can't move a hip, knee or ankle normally
  • Swollen joint
  • Calf pain on 1 side lasts more than 12 hours
  • Numbness (loss of feeling) lasts more than 1 hour
  • Severe pain or cries when leg is touched or moved
  • Your child looks or acts very sick
  • You think your child needs to be seen, and the problem is urgent

Call Doctor Within 24 Hours

  • Walking is not normal (has a limp)
  • Fever and pain in both legs
  • Bright red area on skin
  • You think your child needs to be seen, but the problem is not urgent

Call Doctor During Office Hours

  • Cause of leg pain is not clear
  • Leg pain lasts more than 7 days
  • Leg pains or muscle cramps are a frequent problem
  • You have other questions or concerns

Self Care at Home

  • Muscle cramps in the calf or foot
  • Strained muscles caused by overuse (exercise or work)
  • Growing pains suspected
  • Cause is clear and harmless. (Examples are tight new shoes or a recent shot)

Care Advice for Leg Muscle Cramps, Strains, Growing Pains

  1. What You Should Know About Leg Pain:
    • Strained muscles are common after too much exercise or hard sports.
    • Examples are hiking or running.
    • Weekend warriors who are out of shape get the most muscle pains.
    • Here is some care advice that should help.
  2. Muscle Cramps Treatment:
    • Muscle cramps in the feet or calf muscles occur in a third of children.
    • Stretching. During attacks, stretch the painful muscle by pulling the foot and toes upward. Stretch as far as they will go to break the spasm. Stretch in the opposite direction to how it is being pulled by the cramp.
    • Cold Pack. Use a cold pack. You can also use ice wrapped in a wet cloth. Put it on the sore muscle for 20 minutes.
    • Water. Heat cramps can occur with hard sports on a hot day. If you suspect heat cramps, have your child drink lots of fluids. Water or sports drinks are good choices. Continue with stretching and using a cold pack.
    • Prevention. Future attacks may be prevented by daily stretching exercises of the heel cords. Stand with the knees straight. Then, stretch the ankles by leaning forward against a wall. Place a pillow under the covers at the foot of the bed at night. This gives the feet more room to move at night. Also, be sure your child gets enough calcium in the diet. Daily Vitamin D3 may also help.
  3. Strained Muscles From Overuse Treatment:
    • Pain Medicine. To help with the pain, give an acetaminophen product (such as Tylenol). Another choice is an ibuprofen product (such as Advil). Use as needed.
    • Cold Pack. For pain or swelling, use a cold pack. You can also use ice wrapped in a wet cloth. Put it on the sore muscles for 20 minutes. Repeat 4 times on the first day, then as needed. Caution: Avoid frostbite.
    • Heat Pack. If pain lasts over 2 days, put heat on the sore muscle. Use a heat pack, heating pad or warm wet washcloth. Do this for 10 minutes, then as needed. Caution: Avoid burns. For stiffness all over, use a hot bath instead. Move the sore leg muscles under the warm water.
  4. Growing Pains Treatment:
    • Most often, the pains are mild and don't last long. No treatment is needed.
    • Massage. Rub the sore muscles to help the pain go away.
    • Pain Medicine. If the pain lasts more than 30 minutes, give a pain medicine. You can use either acetaminophen (such as Tylenol) or ibuprofen (such as Advil). Use as needed.
    • Prevention. Research has shown that daily stretching can prevent most growing pains. Stretch the quads, hamstrings and calf muscles.
  5. What to Expect:
    • Muscle cramps usually last 5 to 30 minutes.
    • Once they go away, the muscle returns to normal quickly.
    • A strained muscle hurts for 3 to 7 days. The pain often peaks on day 2.
    • Following severe overuse, the pain may last a week.
  6. Call Your Doctor If:
    • Muscle cramps occur often
    • Fever, limp, or a swollen joint occurs
    • Pain caused by work or sports lasts more than 7 days
    • You think your child needs to be seen
    • Your child becomes worse

And remember, contact your doctor if your child develops any of the 'Call Your Doctor' symptoms.

Disclaimer: This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. It is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information.


Copyright 1994-2017 Schmitt Pediatric Guidelines LLC. All rights reserved.

Select from over 100 symptoms to learn about managing your child's illness.