What is leg pain?

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Leg pain in children: Overview

Many things can cause leg pain. Too much exercise or overuse can cause a muscle cramp (or charley horse). Your child can get leg cramps from not eating a balanced diet that has enough potassium, calcium, and other minerals. If your child does not drink enough fluids or is taking certain medicines, your child may get leg cramps. Other causes of leg pain include injuries, blood flow problems, and nerve damage.

You can usually ease your child's pain at home. Your doctor may recommend that your child rest the leg and keep it elevated.

How can you care for your child's leg pain?

  • Give pain medicines exactly as directed.
    • If the doctor prescribed medicine for your child's pain, use it as prescribed.
    • If your child is not taking a prescription pain medicine, ask your doctor if your child can take an over-the-counter medicine.
  • Give your child any other medicines exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor if you think your child is having a problem with a medicine.
  • Have your child rest the leg while there is pain. Your child should not stand for long periods of time.
  • Prop up your child's leg at or above the level of their heart when possible.
  • Make sure your child is eating a balanced diet that is rich in calcium, potassium, and magnesium.
  • If directed by your doctor, put ice or a cold pack on the area for 10 to 20 minutes at a time. Put a thin cloth between the ice and your child's skin.
  • Your child's leg may be in a splint, a brace, or an elastic bandage, and your child may have crutches to help with walking. Follow your doctor's directions about how long your child needs to wear supports and how to use the crutches.

Leg pain in children: When to call

Call 911 anytime you think your child may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • Your child has sudden chest pain and shortness of breath, or your child coughs up blood.
  • Your child's leg is cool or pale or changes color.

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your child has increasing or severe pain.
  • Your child's leg suddenly feels weak and your child cannot move it.
  • Your child has signs of infection, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness.
    • Red streaks leading from the sore area.
    • Pus draining from a place on the leg.
    • A fever.
  • Your child cannot bear weight on the leg.

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

  • Your child does not get better as expected.

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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.