Causes of Joint Pain in Children

When your child is complaining about joint pain, you may not think anything of it at first. After all, children are known for playing rough, so the occasional aches and pains are not out of the question. In some cases, your child may not even complain about joint pain, but you may notice a slight change in their behavior. 

Joint pain in children can be caused by a variety of conditions. In most cases joint pain in children can be attributed to growing pains or sports injuries, however there are more serious causes as well. Here are some causes of joint pain in children: 

Growing Pains

Growing pains are characterized by a dull ache or throbbing that usually occurs in the leg, but can also affect the arms. Since growing pains predominantly start in the evening and resolve by morning, the discomfort can be enough to cause sleep disturbances. Growing pains commonly occur in children between the ages of 3 and 9 since their bones and attached tissues are growing and stretching. Growing pains are generally the result of excess tension being applied to the soft tissues as the bones grow. Luckily, this is considered a normal part of growing and is not generally cause for concern. 

Sports Injuries

If your child plays sports, then the cause of their joint pain can also be attributed to an overuse, or acute injury. An overuse injury can occur when a specific motion is repeated over and over again. An acute injury can occur as a result of falling, landing wrong, or twisting. Both types of injuries can cause persistent joint pain, however with acute injuries the pain usually comes on suddenly. Although pain can also come on suddenly with overuse injuries, it can also get gradually worse over time. 

Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis

While this condition is not nearly as common as growing pains or sports injuries, juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) is another condition that can cause joint pain in children. Additionally, JIA produces symptoms such as morning stiffness, joint swelling that lasts longer than three days, and reduced joint functioning. 


Although uncommon in young children, systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) can affect teenagers, especially females. Lupus is an autoimmune disorder that affects all the organs in the body. Since it affects the entire body, there are usually additional symptoms besides joint pain, such as: skin rashes, persistent fatigue, fever, or hair loss. 


In rare cases, joint pain in children can also be attributed to leukemia, which is a cancer of the blood that begins in the bone marrow. Just like with lupus, leukemia causes additional symptoms besides just joint pain. These symptoms can include: trouble breathing, frequent infections or fevers, swollen lymph nodes, anemia, and bleeding or bruising easily. 

So, how do you know whether or not to be concerned about your child’s aches and pains? Generally speaking, orthopedic specialists recommend scheduling an appointment if your child’s joint pain is persistent, severe, or unusual. Additionally, orthopedic specialists also recommend scheduling an appointment if your child’s joint pain is accompanied by other symptoms such as swelling, tenderness, fever, loss of appetite, fatigue, weight loss, rash, recent injury, or limping. 

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