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Knee Pain: How to Care for Your Child

Knee pain can happen for many different reasons, and can come on slowly or suddenly. Often, knee pain isn't serious and goes away within a few weeks with rest and basic home care.

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  • Your child should take a break from activities that cause pain or put stress on the knee, such as running, dancing, martial arts, and jumping. Your child may try a low-impact exercise (such as swimming or biking) if it doesn't cause pain.

  • Ask your health care provider:

    • When your child can return to sports. When they do return, be sure they wear supportive athletic shoes and any protective padding recommended for specific sports.

    • If your child should do any stretches or exercises, or go to a physical therapist.

    • When your child should come back for follow-up.

  • If your child is uncomfortable, you can give acetaminophen (such as Tylenol® or a store brand) OR ibuprofen (such as Advil®, Motrin®, or a store brand), if recommended by your health care provider.

  • To help with swelling:

    • Put a cold pack on the knee for 15–20 minutes every 3–4 hours. Place a towel or cloth between the cold pack and the skin.

    • Keep the leg raised when possible.

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Your child:

  • still has knee pain after following the care instructions

  • has new or worse knee pain or swelling

  • has pain that wakes them at night more than once in a while

  • has a hard time walking

  • gets other symptoms (like a fever or rash, or the knee looks red)

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What can cause knee pain? Injury, irritation, or swelling in any part of the knee joint (such as its bones, muscles, tendons, or ligaments) can cause pain. If knee pain doesn't go away with rest and home treatment, health care providers may do tests or send a child to an orthopedic (bone) doctor to see what is causing the pain.

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