Complaints of pain in the lower calf from a child often elicit concern from parents due to fears of illness or injury. Fortunately, most cases of lower calf pain in children are not a cause for medical concern and resolve within a few minutes to a day or two. Lower calf pains in children are treatable and preventable with home care and changes in exercise and sports routines.
Most cases of lower calf pain in children result from muscle cramps, explains the Seattle Children’s Hospital website. Dehydration, lack of warm up and improper form contribute to muscle cramps. Strained muscles in the lower calf are another cause of leg pain in children, and these pains are generally continuous and last for several hours or longer, compared to muscle cramps which usually last less than 15 minutes. Children sometimes suffer from “growing pains,” which cause up to 10 percent of lower calf pain in children. Infections such as influenza are another cause of lower leg pain in children. Medical conditions such as arthritis, fractures of the tibia or fibula, neuritis and deep vein thrombosis are serious but rare causes of lower calf pain in children.
Identification and Diagnosis
If your child is unable to stand on or walk with his lower leg, contact your doctor immediately. In addition, if your child develops a fever, limps on the affected leg or his knee, ankle or another joint swells, seek urgent medical care, as these symptoms often indicate a serious medical condition such as Guillan-Barre Syndrome. Lower calf pain that persists for more than seven days also requires evaluation by your child’s pediatrician.
Most lower calf pains in children are manageable at home. For muscle cramps, have your child stretch her calf by pulling the toes and foot toward her knee until the spasm resolves. Applying a cold compress to the calf also helps reduce painful spasms and strained muscles. Running a warm bath and having your child sit in the water helps relax tightness and pain resulting from strained calf muscles. Give your child ibuprofen as recommended by your pediatrician to reduce pain and inflammation of the muscle to help relieve pain from cramps, strains and growing pains. Massaging your child’s calf muscles also helps relieve growing pains.
Daily stretching of your child’s leg muscles prevents most cases of growing pains in the lower calf, advises the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital website. Making sure your child drinks plenty of water when playing or exercising in hot weather helps prevent muscle cramps related to dehydration. Work with your child or ask your child’s coach or trainer to teach him proper form and stretching techniques for sports and other physical activities to help prevent lower calf pain related to strained muscles.