Can children suffer from joint pain?

When we think of joint pain, we usually conjure up images of older people - adults advancing in age who are the victims of bodily wear and tear.

While older Americans experience the most incidents of severe joint pain, they are far from alone in feeling the effects of the condition. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the oldest group of Americans, those who are 65 years and older, make up about 24% of severe joint pain sufferers, which is the percentage of adult sufferers who are ages 18-44.

But what about children? One study divided evenly between boys and girls ages 8-13 showed that approximately 30% of children suffer from joint pain in various forms. The report concluded by stating that "The pubertal stage plays an important role in the physiopathology of this condition."

Why does the age bracket one would believe to be the least affected by joint pain have so many victims? The answer is as simple as "growing pains." Rather than blaming bone growth during growth spurts as the culprit, researchers found that the pain is "most often due to the everyday activities of the subjects," such as running, jumping, climbing, etc.

The characteristics of childhood joint pain include:

  • Typically starts in the late afternoon or early evening
  • May be severe enough to affect sleep
  • Usually affects twin joints, that is, both knees, both wrists, etc.
  • May be accompanied by headaches

There are several options for reducing childhood joint pain symptoms. These include:

  • Heat - A hot water bottle or heating pad may provide temporary relief.
  • Warm bath - Warm water has been shown to reduce aches due to joint pain.
  • Massage - Gently rubbing the affected area can be helpful
  • Stretching - While this may be challenging for the youngest joint pain sufferers stretching can help ease symptoms.

Opioids are to be avoided completely and even over-the-counter painkillers should be a last resort.

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