Springdale Mason Pediatrics

Leg Pain - Muscle Cramps

Definition

  • Leg muscle cramps from sports or hard work (muscle overuse)
  • The pain is not caused by an injury
  • Also called muscle spasms or heat cramps

Call or Return If

  • Fever, limp, or a swollen joint occurs
  • Muscle cramps occur often
  • You think your child needs to be seen
  • Your child becomes worse

About This Topic

Symptoms

  • Brief pains (1 to 15 minutes) in the leg muscles
  • The calf muscles or feet are the most common site.
  • Foot or leg cramps can be very painful. They may also awaken your child from sleep.
  • The involved muscle feels hard and tight.

Causes

  • Most often occur after strenuous sports
  • Sweating a lot can be a risk factor.

Pain Scale

  • Mild: Your child feels pain and tells you about it. But, the pain does not keep your child from any normal activities. School, play and sleep are not changed.
  • Moderate: The pain keeps your child from doing some normal activities. It may wake him or her up from sleep.
  • Severe: The pain is very bad. It keeps your child from doing all normal activities.

After Care Advice

Overview:
  • Muscle cramps are common after too much exercise or hard sports. Examples are hiking or running.
  • Muscle cramps occur in 30% of children.
  • Here is some care advice that should help.
Stretching:
  • During attacks, stretch the painful muscle by pulling the foot and toes upward.
  • Stretch as far as they will go to break the spasm.
  • Stretch in the opposite direction to how it is being pulled by the cramp.
Cold Pack:
  • Use a cold pack. You can also use ice wrapped in a wet cloth.
  • Put it on the sore muscle for 20 minutes.
Water:
  • Heat cramps can occur with hard sports on a hot day.
  • If you suspect heat cramps, have your child drink lots of fluids. Water or sports drinks are good choices.
  • Continue with stretching and using a cold pack.
Pain Medicine:
  • Not needed because the pain goes away quickly.
Prevention of Recurrent Muscle Cramps:
  • Future attacks may be prevented by daily stretching exercises of the heel cords. Stand with the knees straight. Then, stretch the ankles by leaning forward against a wall. Also do this before and after playing sports.
  • Place a pillow under the covers at the foot of the bed at night. This gives the feet more room to move at night.
  • Also, be sure your child gets enough calcium in the diet. Daily Vitamin D3 may also help.
What to Expect:
  • Muscle cramps usually last 5 to 30 minutes.
  • Once they go away, the muscle returns to normal.

Author: Barton Schmitt MD, FAAP
Copyright 2000-2020 Schmitt Pediatric Guidelines LLC
Disclaimer: This health information is for educational purposes only. You the reader assume full responsibility for how you choose to use it.
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