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Kids, Achy Joints & Juvenile Arthritis

achy joints after exercise
Pain that doesn’t go away, or gets better and then comes back, could be a sign of a more serious injury or juvenile arthritis.

Your child wakes up in the middle of the night with a pain in his calf or complains that his knee hurts after playing outside. You chalk it up to growing pains or simply a response to all the running, jumping and playing he does. But what if those pains keep coming and going or don’t go away at all?

Is it Normal or is it Juvenile Arthritis?

Most pain in children’s joints is nothing to worry about. In fact one of the most common causes of joint pain in children is due to “growing pains.” These pains are estimated to affect nearly 2 in 5 children and occur most often in the legs. As long as the pain is not caused by an injury (like your child fell off his bike or tripped while running), the pain often goes away with some rest, ice or heat, gentle massage, stretching or over-the-counter pain medicine. But if your child’s pain doesn’t go away after trying these remedies, or it goes away and comes back, it could be something more serious.

Watch for These Symptoms

Here are some signs that you should have your child’s joint pain checked out by a doctor:

  • The pain doesn’t go away.
  • The pain gets better but then comes back.
  • The joint is swollen or stiff.
  • Pain is accompanied by a fever or rash.
  • Your child’s movement is affected.
  • Your child is tired, weak or less active than usual.

Aches & Pains Won’t Go Away?

Find a UVA pediatrician near you.

These symptoms may indicate that your child has a form of juvenile arthritis. While many people think of arthritis as something that mostly affects older adults, kids can get it, too. In fact, nearly 300,000 children have been diagnosed with some form of the disease.

As an autoimmune disease, arthritis can be especially aggressive in children since their immune systems are not fully formed until around age 18. In addition to causing joint pain, the disease may result in complications that affect bone growth and cause permanent damage. So if you suspect your child may have arthritis, it’s best to see a doctor as soon as possible.

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