One of the most complex parts of your body, knees play an important role in allowing you to move. They allow your legs to bend, swivel, straighten and move in many different directions. In order to deliver that great flexibility, knees are made up of lots of moving parts – parts that can be injured and cause pain. In fact, knee pain is very common in children, especially among adolescents who are active and/or participate in sports. So, what should you do if your child experiences knee pain?

First Response: Think R.I.C.E.

Thankfully, most injuries are minor and heal with time. If your child hurts his or her knee, you can take immediate action to help the knee heal faster. For most injures, including knee injuries in children, follow the R.I.C.E. plan until your child can visit his or her pediatrician.

Rest. Rest the knee, often for several days, to avoid further injury and help support the healing process.

Ice. Ice the knee with an ice bag (a bag of frozen peas works well, too) for 15 minutes several times a day for the first 48 hours. This helps to lessen the pain and swelling.

Compression. Bandage the knee to provide compression, which will give support and decrease swelling.

Elevation. Prop the knee up on some pillows or blankets to reduce swelling.

Most knee injuries are sprains, strains or tears and will begin to heal after one or two days of R.I.C.E. If needed, ibuprofen can be taken for pain control.

Second Response: See a Pediatrician

If pain and swelling persist, you should have your pediatrician take a look at your child’s knee. Here’s what to expect during your visit:

1. The history. Your pediatrician will ask several questions about your child’s knee pain to get a good “story” about the pain. He or she will ask questions such as: When did it start hurting? Where does it hurt? What kind of pain? Does anything make it better or worse? Did you hear any pops when you first injured your knee?

2. The exam. Next, your doctor will examine the injured knee. Your child will be asked to stand, sit, lie down and maybe even walk or jump so the doctor can look at the knee in many different positions. In addition, your pediatrician will want to see how the knee is bending but also will look at the outside of the knee for puffiness, redness and warmth to the touch.

3. Imaging. After “getting the story” and examining your child’s knee, your pediatrician will decide if pictures need to be taken of the knee. Sometimes your pediatrician may order an x-ray to look at the bones and/or a CT or MRI to get a better look at other parts of the knee such as cartilage and ligaments.

4. Treatment plan. Once your pediatrician has all the information he or she needs, he or she will determine a diagnosis and treatment plan for your child’s knee pain. Once your child’s knee has healed, your pediatrician may order exercises and physical therapy as part of the rehabilitation program. If there is a serious injury, your pediatrician may refer your child to a specialist or orthopedic surgeon.

For more information on knee pain in children, tips to prevent knee injuries, or to
find a pediatrician, visit

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