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Musculoskeletal Pain in Children: Care Instructions

Your Care Instructions

Different problems with the bones, muscles, nerves, ligaments, and tendons in the body can cause pain. One or more areas of your child's body may ache or burn, or feel tired, stiff, or sore.

The medical term for this type of pain is musculoskeletal pain. It can have many different causes. In some cases, the cause of the pain is another health problem. Sometimes the pain is caused by an injury such as a strain or sprain. Or the pain can be from using one part of the body in the same way over and over again. This is called overuse.

To help find the cause of your child's pain, the doctor examines your child and asks questions about his or her health. Blood tests or imaging tests like an X-ray may also be helpful. But sometimes doctors can't find a cause of the pain.

Treatment depends on your child's symptoms and the cause of the pain, if known.

The doctor has checked your child carefully, but problems can develop later. If you notice any problems or new symptoms, get medical treatment right away.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

How can you care for your child at home?

If your child's pain is new, encourage your child to:

  • Rest until your child feels better.
  • Avoid anything that makes the pain worse. Your child can gradually be more active when your child feels better and the doctor says it's okay.

To help treat your child's pain:

  • Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
    • If the doctor gave your child a prescription medicine for pain, give 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.
  • Ask your child's doctor about using heat or cold for pain. Only use these when you can be near to supervise your child.
    • After 2 or 3 days, if the swelling is gone, use a heating pad set on low or a warm cloth. Put a thin cloth between the heating pad and your child's skin.
    • Put ice or a cold pack on the area for 10 to 20 minutes at a time to ease pain. Put a thin cloth between the ice and your child's skin.

When should you call for help?

Call your child's doctor or nurse advice line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your child has new pain, or your child's pain gets worse.
  • Your child has new symptoms such as a fever, a rash, or chills.

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

  • Your child does not get better as expected.

Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.