Seeing children in pain is never easy – it’s hard seeing them suffer. You want to find the cause quickly.

Referred pain can make the situation even more confusing. Knee pain in children commonly comes from problems in the hip.

In this article, you’ll learn about the causes of this type of problem in children, and what you can do about it.

Young children can’t point to where the pain is

Interestingly, children aren’t good at locating where their pain is coming from. Until 5-7 years of age, their accuracy is quite low in identifying the source of pain. 

When feeling pain from walking or limping they may point to their legs vaguely, but not be able to pinpoint that location like we can as adults. It’s common for them to say something like, ‘I hurt’.

Knees take much of the load

The knee often takes the brunt of poor biomechanics in the legs. If the hips or ankles have lack of motion, this often means the knee becomes symptomatic.

Being that middle joint of the leg, the knee often compensates for uneven loads. This can damage which tissues and result in pain.

Looking at the bigger picture

While addressing the knee in an assessment is important, it is essential that we also assess the ankle, hip and lumbar spine to ensure we are locating the cause of the issue.

This approach is referred to as ‘assessing the kinetic chain’. By taking this approach we assess all the joints that contribute to the motion in question – walking, for example.

What we look for

When examining children at Canberra Spine Centre, hip mobility is something that we generally assess, even in the absence of hip pain.

We spread our field of enquiry wide to help us identify other issues present, even if the children are unable to describe their pain.

Adults have the same patterns

Knee pain in adults can also come from the lumbar spine and hips. As chiropractors, we are careful not to overlook these areas when searching for the potential cause of knee pain in adults.

The are several reasons that knee pain can originate from another source. Firstly, there are a lot of muscles that attach at both the hip and knee.

Damage in one of these muscles can easily refer pain to the knee. Another cause is nerves referring pain from different locations, such as from the lumbar spine or hip.

In fact, hips are known to refer to the buttock, groin, thigh, knee, leg, and foot.

What to look for in children

Tuning into the way a child walks can help identify a problem. If something hurts, the child may limp.

This way of walking (gait) will often be adopted to make it less painful by avoiding pressure on that leg.

When a child has a limp, this is often easier to hear as opposed to see (the timing of their feet hitting the ground).

Top tips for watching out for in children’s legs

  1. W sitting. Where the feet sit under the bottom and knees are pushed out in front. This puts excessive force through the hip joints and can lead to “knocking knees”
  2. Any limping, visible or audible – as described above.
  3. Excessive In-toeing or Out-toeing. It is normal for small amounts of toes pointing in out at different ages, but excessive is never normal.
  4. When running watching for feet flicking in, brushing the calves or out showing inefficient running style/form.

Chiropractors are spine care experts

Chiropractors are experts in the diagnosis and management of spine-related disorders.

When a child is limping or complaining of knee or other pain, especially something that isn’t going away, it’s a good idea to have it checked.

At Canberra Spine Centre, our thorough assessment will help to determine if the problem is something that chiropractic care can help, or if referral to another practitioner is required.

Where spinal or other extremity joint misalignment is part of the cause or contributing to the problem, chiropractic care can be very helpful.

Restoring proper spinal and/or extremity joint motion in addition to re-training the supportive muscles helps a child to get back to being their best.

If you’re concerned about a child’s pain or limp and are not sure what to do about it, please call us on (02) 6257 9400.

If you would like some more information about the spine and nervous system and how it relates to your health, please check out the other articles on our Facebook page or go to our website: www.spinecentre.com.au

Call (02) 6257 9400 or visit us at 7 Macpherson St in O’Connor.