OBJECTIVES: To determine the prevalence, causes and clinical features of short lasting recurrent limb pain (recurrent limb pain) in children. DESIGN: Population-based study in two stages, with an initial screening questionnaire followed by clinical interviews and physical examination of symptomatic children. SETTING: 67 primary and secondary schools in the city of Aberdeen. SUBJECTS: 2165 children representing a random 10% sample of all schoolchildren aged between 5-15 years. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: (a) The causes of limb pain in children, (b) the prevalence of recurrent limb pain in schoolchildren, (c) the relationship of recurrent limb pain to childhood migraine. RESULTS: Sports and playground injuries were the most common cause of limb pain, affecting 9% of all children. The prevalence rate of recurrent limb pain was 2.6% (95% confidence interval 1.9 to 3.4). Episodes of recurrent limb pain had similar trigger factors, associated symptoms, and relieving factors to episodes of headache in children with migraine. CONCLUSIONS: Recurrent limb pain is a common cause of limb pain, with a prevalence rate of 2.6%. The close clinical and epidemiological similarities between recurrent limb pain and childhood migraine suggest a common pathogenesis.
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