- What are growing pains?
- What are the causes of growing pains?
- What are its symptoms?
- When to see a doctor?
- Diagnosis of growing pains
- Home care for growing pains
Your child is so tired during the day that his/ her legs start throbbing by evening. They can’t sleep in the night unless you massage the legs or give a painkiller. By morning they are fine, but this pain recurs a week or two later.
What are growing pains?
Growing pains refer to the intermittent muscular pain in the legs. They are usually like leg cramps and cause muscle ache in both the legs.
This pain usually starts in the afternoon or evening. Sometimes, children complain of leg cramps at night and wake up from sleep.
Growing pain is mostly seen in children aged 3 to 12 years (1).
Although a child goes through pain, there is no damage to the bones or muscles.
What are the causes of growing pains?
The exact cause of the growing pain is unknown. But below are some of the common triggers believed to cause growing pains:
- Intense physical activity such as running, swimming, climbing or jumping during the day could tire the muscles and cause pain later in the day.
- Poor body posture such as standing, walking or sitting awkwardly may put pressure on the supporting muscles, leading to pain. Some kids with flat feet may have more pain than others.
Contrary to its name, growing pain is not known to be related to growth spurts.
What are the symptoms of growing pain in children?
The following are the most common growing pain symptoms in kids:
- Growing pains mostly affect both the legs in the calves, thighs, behind the knees, and shins.
- The pain starts late in the afternoon, evening or at night.
- Your child may wake up from sleep due to severe muscle pain.
- By morning, this pain goes away, and your child feels neither any stiffness nor pain.
- The pain usually lasts for 10 to 15 minutes (2), although it can extend to hours.
- Growing pains are intermittent with some pain-free days and weeks, but may return; for some kids it is regular.
- The pain does not affect the joints or bones but just the muscles.
Growing pains do not affect a child’s walking or running, and neither do they make them fall sick. But in some cases, the pains need a doctor’s attention.
When to see a doctor?
Take your child to a growing child pediatrician if:
- They have a fever or appetite loss
- Are unable to run, walk or play
- Are limping
- The legs look red or swollen
- The pain is there during the day as well
The doctor will examine the child to diagnose the condition.
Diagnosis of growing pains in kids
The doctor will ask questions regarding the nature of the pains and the child’s medical history.
Growing pains are diagnosed after ruling out all other causes of leg pain such as (3):
- Arthritis that damages the joints
- Knock knees or flat fleet that affect the way muscles work
- Viral infections like Ross River
- Sever’s disease causing pain in the heels
If the pain is actually the growing pain, the doctor will not find anything unusual during a physical examination. Blood test and X-rays are usually not needed.
Home remedies for growing pains
No treatment is needed for growing pains. You can take care of your child at home by following some tips for relief.
Caring for growing pains may vary from child to child, depending on the severity of the condition. You can help your child in the following ways (3):
- Massage the legs gently
- Help the child stretch the leg muscles
- Place a warm cloth or heating pad on the leg
- If the pain is severe, give over-the-counter medicines like paracetamol
- Reassure your child that it will go away and will not stop them from playing, walking, or running.
If you are giving your child medicines, ask your doctor about the dose, and read the labels and instructions accurately.
Growing pains are not severe and happen to almost every child. Help your child wade through the pain by massaging their legs, give it some time and your kid will be back to their normal activities without any difficulty.
Would you like to share any experience with us? Write to us in the comments section below.
2. Are growing pains a myth? Princess Margaret Hospital for Children, Western Australia
3. Yosef Uziel1 and Philip J Hashkes; Growing pains in children; NCBI
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