Common Causes of Childhood Strains and Sprains

As a child, I regularly got sprains so often that we always had crutches and ace bandages at home, as well as some air casts and splints. My children fortunately have been more lucky there (though one kid managed to break his bone twice and dislocate something another time...) Here's some more from a reader about what causes these types of injuries and what to do about it.

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Scrapes and bumps are an inevitable part of growing up. It doesn’t matter if your child is a bookworm boy or a girl with a passion for football, strains and sprains can occur pretty much anywhere and at any time. It is, therefore, a good idea to know the signs and symptoms.


A strain occurs when our tendons - which connect our muscles to our skeleton, are stretched too far or, in severe cases, are pulled away from the bone completely. Strains can occur in adults, especially those that don’t exercise regularly if we reach or stretch too far or too violently. Children tend to be much more flexible than adults and so are less likely to experience strain injuries unless they are involved in strenuous activity.

Strains can also occur as a result of a twist or fall, but the most common cause is overexertion of the muscles. Warming up before exercise reduces the chances of strains occurring. in fact, it is during stretching that lots of children and adults cause themselves minor strains, so make sure you ease your body into any physical activity.


Sprains are similar to strains and they feel very similar. A sprain is an injury of the ligaments rather than the tendons. Ligaments are the muscle fibers that connect our bones to one another, a sprain occurs when these ligaments are stretched or torn.

Sprains are more likely to be caused by an awkward fall or twisting of the body than strains are. If your child plays a lot of sports, it is worth knowing the symptoms of a knee sprain and ankle sprain as these are probably the most common types of sprain that children are likely to encounter.

What are the Signs That My Child Has a Strain or Sprain?

The most immediate sign that your child has suffered a strain or sprain is a specific kind of pain that they will feel - it’s one of those things where your body kind of instinctively knows what’s happened. The affected area will be more difficult and painful to move; for how long depends on the severity of the injury.

In more severe cases, this pain can be accompanied by pain and swelling in the affected area. These types of injuries also often cause a hot sensation on the skin and may develop into bruising or swelling.

When Should My Child See a Doctor

Often when children sustain these types of injuries, it is the shock more than anything that leads to tears. Most strains and sprains will resolve themselves in a relatively short time. After 5-10 minutes, the pain should have subsided from most injuries. The affected area might be tender or swollen for longer than this.

You need to see a doctor if the pain is severe and unabating, the affected area is very tender to the touch (some tenderness is expected), or if the injured area is crooked or has bumps that don’t look like normal swelling and aren’t found on the uninjured side of their body. You should also consult a doctor if your child cannot move the affected area or if they report numbness around the injury.

Strains and sprains are an inevitable part of being an active child. When they occur, especially in younger children, their reaction might make it seem much worse than it really is, but this is normally due to the shock. Most incidents will resolve themselves but consult a doctor if you’re unsure.

See my disclaimer.

Penniless Parenting

Mommy, wife, writer, baker, chef, crafter, sewer, teacher, babysitter, cleaning lady, penny pincher, frugal gal

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