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Muscle Strain in Children: Care Instructions


A muscle strain happens when your child overstretches, or pulls, a muscle. It can happen when your child exercises or lifts something or when your child falls. Rest and other home care can help the muscle heal.

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?

  • Have your child rest the strained muscle. Do not let your child put weight on it for a day or two. If your doctor advises it, have your child use crutches or a sling to rest a sore limb.
  • Put ice or a cold pack on the sore area for 10 to 20 minutes at a time. Try to do this every 1 to 2 hours for the next 3 days (when your child is awake). Put a thin cloth between the ice and your child's skin.
  • Prop up the sore arm or leg on a pillow when you ice it or anytime your child sits or lies down during the next 3 days. Try to keep it above the level of your child's 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. You might also try switching between ice and heat.
  • Be safe with medicines. Give pain medicines exactly as directed.
    • If the doctor prescribed medicine for your child's 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.
  • Your child should not do anything that makes the pain worse. Have your child return to activity gradually as your child feels better.

When should you call for help?

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

  • Your child has new severe pain.
  • Your child's injured limb is cool or pale or changes colour.
  • Your child has tingling, weakness, or numbness in the injured limb.
  • Your child cannot move the injured area.

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

  • Your child cannot put weight on a joint, or your child feels unsteady when walking.
  • Pain and swelling get worse or do not start to get better after 2 days of home treatment.

Where can you learn more?

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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.