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HealthInfo Canterbury

Bone pain in children

Bone pain in children is common and can have many causes. This page covers general advice about when you should take your child to see your GP or practice nurse. The links at the bottom of the page have information about specific conditions that can cause bone pain.

Children commonly get bone pain at night. It's usually a dull, achy pain and it often wakes them from their sleep. It can also happen after physical activity or after an injury.

When to see a health professional

If your child hasn't had an injury and their bone pain hasn't gone away after three days, it's important to see your GP or practice nurse. They'll 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 child to see a doctor straight away if they:

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.

Treating bone pain in children

The treatment depends on the cause of the bone pain. Your GP or practice nurse 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 investigations 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 don’t improve, get worse or change.

How you can help your child

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

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Endorsed by orthopaedic clinical nurse practitioner, Canterbury DHB. Page created March 2019.


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