Achy Joints in a Teenager

By Jonita Davis
A teen's joint pain complaint could be one of several things.
A teen's joint pain complaint could be one of several things.

When a teenager complains of a sore knee or achy elbow, it is the parent's job to determine the next course of action. Calling the doctor for an appointment, rushing to the emergency room or simple applying ice and some pain medication are all options that must be considered. One of the problems with these situations is that there could be any number of causes behind the joint pain. To begin to solve your teen's pain problem, you must first understand the factors that cause the pain.

Causes of Joint Pain

According to the Duke University Health System, most of the pain complaints from children, including teens, are not serious. The hospital found that 28 percent of the pain complaints were because the child overworked himself in sports, at work or during another physical activity. About 18 percent were due to a growing and changing skeletal system, while eight percent were considered general “growing pains” or the common complaints of a growing child. About 30 percent of the pain complaints stemmed from some kind of traumatic event.

Just Growing Pains

Growing pains were a small percentage of the joint pain complaints, but they are persistent amongst teens. According to the Dynamic Chiropractic, a trade magazine for the chiropractic community, growing pains are more of an emotional event than a skeletal one. They usually occur at night and are usually resolved in a few hours or through minimal treatment. The teen's joint pain is often accompanied by some other emotional event that is simply manifesting itself as achy joints.

When It's Something Serious

The most direct way to determine the source of your teen's joint pain is to seek treatment from a physician. A few X-rays can often help diagnose or rule out serious joint problems. Another important way to diagnose the joint pain is to assess the cause of the pain. Trauma is easy to diagnose, as is overuse. Growing pains have an emotional component and appear in the evening hours like colic. Chronic pain, however, is persistent and accompanied by swelling, pain that does not let up and other symptoms.

Seeking Help

Once you determine what type of joint pain your teen is experiencing, it is time to seek help. Teens with growing pains may need the assistance of a counselor or mental health professional to help sort out the emotional triggers for the pain. Kids with traumatic or skeletal growth symptoms need to see your family physician at some point for a physical assessment of the joints -- even if you decided to treat the pain immediately at home. Of course, teens with possible chronic joint pain will need the continuous care of a specialist in the area of joint medicine.

About the Author

Jonita Davis is freelance writer and marketing consultant. Her work has appeared in various print and online publications, including "The LaPorte County Herald Argus" and Davis also authored the book, "Michigan City Marinas," which covers the history of the Michigan City Port Authority. Davis holds a bachelor's degree in English from Purdue University.