Springdale Mason Pediatrics

Leg Pain - Muscle Strain


  • Leg muscle pain from hard work or sports (muscle overuse)
  • Pain is not caused by an injury
  • Also called muscle overuse syndrome

Call or Return If

  • Fever, limp, or a swollen joint occurs
  • Pain caused by work or sports lasts more than 7 days
  • You think your child needs to be seen
  • Your child becomes worse

About This Topic


  • Pain in the leg muscles
  • The quads (muscles in front of the thigh) are the most common site.

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.


  • Constant leg pains are often from hard work or sports.
  • Examples of triggers are hiking, running, or jumping too much.
  • Muscle pain can also be from a forgotten injury that occurred the day before.

After Care Advice

  • Strained muscles from overuse are common after too much exercise or hard sports.
  • Examples are hiking or running.
  • Weekend warriors who are out of shape get the most muscle pains.
  • Here is some care advice that should help.
Pain Medicine:
  • To help with the pain, give acetaminophen (such as Tylenol) or ibuprofen. Use as needed.
Cold Pack:
  • For pain or swelling, use a cold pack. You can also use ice wrapped in a wet cloth.
  • Put it on the sore muscles for 20 minutes.
  • Repeat 4 times on the first day, then as needed.
  • Caution: Avoid frostbite.
Heat Pack:
  • If pain lasts over 2 days, put heat on the sore muscle.
  • Use a heat pack, heating pad or warm wet washcloth.
  • Do this for 10 minutes, then as needed.
  • Caution: Avoid burns.
  • Avoid activities that increase the pain.
  • Continue gentle stretching exercises.
Prevention of Recurrent Leg Pains:
  • Research has shown that daily stretching exercises can prevent some leg pains.
  • Have someone teach you how to stretch the quads, hamstrings, and calf muscles.
  • Stretch each muscle in sets of 10. The best time is before and after playing sports.
  • Also, be sure your child gets enough calcium in the diet. Daily Vitamin D3 may also help.
What to Expect:
  • A strained muscle hurts for 3 to 7 days. The pain often peaks on day 2.
  • After severe overuse, the pain may last a week.

Author: Barton Schmitt MD, FAAP
Copyright 2000-2021 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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