Parents remind us every day how difficult it can be to identify whether a child is experiencing short-term pain and soreness versus suffering from an injury requiring immediate medical attention. These four questions (and two tips!) should help.
This content is presented in partnership with Twin Cities Orthopedics. Twin Cities Orthopedics is committed to providing world-class service to everyone we encounter. Our independent orthopedic specialists deliver individualized care informed by active research and outcomes data. TCO prides itself on being an innovative, nimble organization that can adapt quickly to an ever-changing healthcare environment.
Especially in younger children, fact-finding as soon as possible is important to help understand the context of potential injuries. Details can be skewed or forgotten over time. If your child can’t remember when the pain started, it doesn’t necessarily mean they aren’t injured.
Soreness from overuse typically is felt in the muscles, but injuries are more common in the joints and parts of the body where there is movement. Be especially wary of sharp pains in joints such as ankles, elbows and knees. If a muscle is lightly bruised, or if legs are sore after a day of running around, an injury is less likely.
Observe the location of the pain. While not all injuries are visible, if your child is experiencing rapid swelling, rapid bruising or any deformity, injury is likely and requires immediate attention.
Sore muscles and minor bruising can make movement painful but not impossible. However, if your child is physically unable to move part of their body, an injury is extremely likely and you should visit a specialist right away. Leaving injuries untreated is especially harmful to the long-term health of children.
Try not to use leading questions such as “Does your ankle hurt really bad?” or “Is it just a bruise?” Instead, let your child describe on their own the location of injury and severity of pain, so they don’t feel they have to meet expectations. Children will often answer with what they believe people want to hear, even if it’s not the truth.
Talking with your child will always be subjective, so be sure to watch out for behavioral changes, such as walking differently, holding their arm or protecting a part of their body during their normal routine. Older athletes may change their usual form or technique or be less interested in practice. If this behavior is persistent, it may be a sign of an underlying injury that should be treated.
Running, pedaling and throwing, when performed safely, will strengthen your child’s muscles and tendons, significantly improving their long-term health. However, with active play comes an increased chance of injury.
If you suspect there is an injury, you should visit a specialist immediately so the injury is treated correctly from the beginning. Twin Cities Orthopedic Urgent Care walk-in clinics are available 8 a.m.-8 p.m. seven days a week.
No appointment necessary!
To learn more about when to visit a specialist versus going to the emergency room, visit our Orthopedic Urgent Care walk-in clinics page.
Unsure where to start with an orthopedic need? TCO provides concierge care coordination and priority scheduling support for SportsEngine athletes. The TCO Clinical Navigator provides easy access to:
To contact, call 952-456-7415 or email ClinicalNavigator@TCOmn.com.
For urgent medical advice or concerns, please contact your clinic directly. For medical emergencies, please dial 911.