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Bone pain in children

Mamae kōiwi ki ngā tamariki

Bone pain in tamariki (children) is common and can have many causes. It's usually a dull, achy pain and it often wakes tamariki children from their sleep. It can also happen after physical activity or after an injury.

Causes of bone pain in children

Bone pain can be caused by an injury, overuse, a disease, an infection or a tumour. When no cause is found, it's often put down to growing pains.

Growing pains often happen in the thighs, calves or the back of the knees. Doctors think growing pains happen during periods of rapid growth. They think the pains are caused by tendons and ligaments being stretched by the rapid bone growth.

Getting help for bone pain in children

If your tamaiti (child) has not had an injury and their bone pain has not gone away after three days, it's important to see your GP. They will ask you questions about your child’s symptoms and examine the area that’s painful. They may arrange an X-ray or blood tests, depending on what they think the cause might be.


Take your tamaiti to see a doctor straight away if they:

Treating bone pain in children

The treatment depends on the cause of the bone pain. Your GP will discuss this with you. They may need to refer you to a bone doctor (called an orthopaedic surgeon) or a children’s medical specialist (called a paediatrician) if you need further investigation or treatment.

Occasionally, your health professional may take a watch and wait approach. If this happens, it’s important to go back if the symptoms do not improve, get worse or change.

Helping your child with bone pain

If your tamaiti child is waking at night with bone pain, the following may help:

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed May 2022.


See also:

Broken bones

Growth plate injuries

Knee pain in children

Limping in children

Perthes disease

Sever's disease

Slipped upper femoral epiphysis

Page reference: 606110

Review key: HIBJC-30067