What is joint pain?

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Joint pain in children: Overview

Many children have minor aches and pains from overuse or injury to muscles and joints. Joint injuries often happen during sports or recreation or from doing chores around the home. An overuse injury can happen when your child puts too much stress on a joint or does an activity that stresses the joint over and over. Examples include using the computer or swinging a baseball bat.

You can take steps at home to help your child's muscles and joints get better. Your child should feel better in 1 to 2 weeks. But it can take 3 months or more to heal completely.

How can you care for yourself when you have joint pain?

  • Do not put weight on the injured joint for at least a day or two.
  • Wrap the injury in an elastic bandage. Do not wrap it too tightly because this can cause more swelling.
  • Put ice or a cold pack on the sore joint for 10 to 20 minutes at a time. Try to do this every 1 to 2 hours for the next 3 days (when you are awake). Put a thin cloth between the ice and your skin.
  • Prop up the sore joint on a pillow when you ice it or anytime you sit or lie down during the next 3 days. Try to keep it above the level of your heart. This will help reduce swelling.
  • After 2 or 3 days, you can try applying heat to the area that hurts. Apply heat for 10 to 20 minutes at a time, several times a day. Types of heat therapy include microwavable packs and disposable heating patches. You might also try switching between ice and heat.
  • Ask your doctor if you can take an over-the-counter pain medicine, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), or naproxen (Aleve). Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
  • Do not take two or more pain medicines at the same time unless the doctor told you to. Many pain medicines have acetaminophen, which is Tylenol. Too much acetaminophen (Tylenol) can be harmful.
  • After 1 or 2 days of rest, begin moving the joint gently. While the joint is still healing, you can begin to exercise using activities that do not strain or hurt the painful joint.

Joint pain: When to call

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have signs of infection, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, and redness.
    • Red streaks leading from the joint.
    • A fever.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • Your movement or symptoms are not getting better after 1 to 2 weeks of home treatment.

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The content above contains general health information provided by Healthwise, Incorporated, and reviewed by its medical experts. This content should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Not all treatments or services described are offered as services by us. For recommended treatments, please consult your healthcare provider.