How to Tell When Your Child Needs an Orthopedic Visit

How to Tell When Your Child Needs an Orthopedic Visit

Bumps and scrapes—every kid experiences them thanks to their penchant for physical activity in the outdoors. But when does a bump or a scrape turn into something worth visiting the orthopedist for? Not all symptoms are equally serious, so when should you take your child in to be examined?

Here are a few common symptoms that, if persistent or frequent, can be a sign it’s time to visit the orthopedic physician.

Injury-related pain

This one is the most clear-cut symptom – if your child experiences pain in an area in which he or she encountered a collision in a sporting event or a tumble in the backyard or any other directly associated injury event, it’s likely worth a clinic visit. Most impacts such as these will have immediate symptoms such as redness, soreness or swelling, but if they linger or continue beyond a couple hours, it might be a sign of a more serious injury.

Morning stiffness

As parents, we all have experienced that stiff and sore feeling when we get out of bed. But when our children start to experience it, it could be a sign of illness beyond just “sleeping too hard.” If this stiffness is regular or affects your kid’s day-to-day activities that used to come more easily (even tasks as basic as reaching for a cereal box or brushing his or her teeth), it could be a sign of the onset of juvenile arthritis. If symptoms are frequent or regular, check with your doctor.


When a child has a broken bone it might not always be obvious. Depending on the severity of the fracture, he or she might not exhibit obvious symptoms like searing pain or restricted movement. A fracture is still a serious ailment that needs to be treated quickly, though. One of the easiest ways to tell if a bone is possibly broken is bruising in an area that may have been impacted. If a bruise appears that is accompanied by tenderness or difficulty in moving limbs or joints in the surrounding area, it might be worth a visit to the orthopedist to get an X-ray.

Warmth and swelling

One sign of a joint condition in a child (or anyone for that matter) is a joint feeling warm or appearing visibly swollen. As outlined above, this is normal in the immediate time after an injury, but persistent or unexplained hotness or redness might be a calling card of an inflammation that needs to be treated. If swelling sticks around for more than a few days or keeps returning time and again, ask your doctor about a possible inflammatory condition.

Persisting pain

One-off joint pain can sometimes be attributed to basic growing pains, particularly in pre-10-year-old children, but if the pain is persistent and continues beyond a night or two it might be a sign of lasting ailments, such as childhood arthritis or various types of infections. If pain lasts for a week or more, it’s time to set an appointment with an orthopedic physician to eliminate any serious complications.