Musculoskeletal pain is acute or chronic pain felt in the muscles, ligaments, tendons, and/or bones. It is a frequent complaint during childhood, and it’s often caused by minor injuries, poor posture, or repetitive stress.
If your child is experiencing chronic musculoskeletal pain, our providers at the Pediatric Pain Management Center at Children’s Health℠ can help uncover the cause and treat your child’s symptoms. In most cases, musculoskeletal pain can be attributed to benign causes – from falls and sprains to overuse to growing pains – but this pain can also be a symptom of several different underlying diseases and conditions affecting the muscles and joints, endocrine system, or nervous system and –rarely – of malignancies.
The Pediatric Pain Management Center at Children’s Health offers children and parents a specially trained team that evaluates and treats chronic pain, acute pain and headaches. Our interdisciplinary approach involves many other specialties to treat pain using multiple approaches at once. The Center can help lessen the pain associated with a variety of diseases and disorders including, but not limited to, chest and back conditions, nerve injuries, rheumatologic conditions, sports injuries and cancer. We also have a dedicated headache clinic for those children suffering from headaches.
Musculoskeletal pain in children often causes an aching or burning pain, stiffness or muscle fatigue, localized or widespread pain, twitching, and/or a feeling that they’ve “pulled something.”
Usually, children with systemic illness causing musculoskeletal pain have other symptoms such as weight loss, fever and fatigue, extreme stiffness or immobility of the joints, a limp, severe pain that wakes them up at night, rashes, etc.
Tests and Diagnosis
If your child is experiencing musculoskeletal pain, his or her provider will perform a complete physical examination – evaluating your child’s level of pain, range of motion, strength, and flexibility; asking about past injuries and activities that could have led to the pain; checking for swelling and tender points; and looking for coexisting symptoms that may point to a systemic cause.
The provider may order blood tests or imaging that could diagnose or rule out a condition like juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, the possibility of a tumor or anatomical defect causing your child’s pain and/or tests to check for entrapment or dysfunction of certain nerves.
The Pediatric Pain Management Center at Children’s Health℠ -- along with your child’s pediatrician and other specialists – can help your child manage the pain and anxiety associated with a variety of musculoskeletal causes.
Depending on the cause of your child’s pain, his or her providers may prescribe:
- Prescription or over-the-counter medications
- Application of heat and/or cold
- Anti-inflammatory or steroid injections
- Physical therapy or an exercise program focused on muscle stretching and strengthening
- Occupational therapy, if necessary to resume regular activities
- Relaxation techniques
- Massage therapy
- Psychological counseling
- Treatment of existing injuries or underlying diseases with medications, immobilization, or surgical intervention – as needed
Is musculoskeletal pain common in children?
Yes. Musculoskeletal pain is one of the most common issues seen by pediatricians and is usually caused by injury, overuse, posture, or other benign conditions.
What are red flags that musculoskeletal pain may be caused by an underlying condition?
If your child also has fever and fatigue, pain that gets worse at rest, morning joint stiffness and pain, joint swelling, bone tenderness, muscle weakness, weight loss, or other concerning symptoms – he or she should see a provider for a complete evaluation.
What are the most common treatments for musculoskeletal pain in children?
Most cases of musculoskeletal pain can be treated with anti-inflammatory medication, rest, stretching and strengthening exercises, and avoidance of activities that lead to strain or overuse. In some cases, your child’s provider will have to treat the underlying injury or illness causing the pain.