“Growing pain” is a term used to describe a type of benign (non-serious) limb pain in children. This pain usually occurs in children aged 3 to 12. Growing pains are the most common type of limb pain in children. Between 10 percent and 30 percent of children will have these pains at least once. These pains occur in both boys and girls.
Symptoms of growing pains:
Growing pains occur mostly in the legs (shins, calves, behind the knees or thighs), and affect both sides of the body. The pain appears in the evening or at night, often awakening the child. By morning the child is better with no symptoms. Parents often report that they can predict when the pain will occur, often on days of increased physical activity or when the child is tired and moody. The duration of the pain is usually between 10 and 30 minutes, although it might range from minutes to hours. The degree of pain can be mild or very severe. Growing pains are intermittent, with pain-free intervals from days to months. In some children the pain can occur daily.
Diagnosing growing pains:
A child’s growing pains can usually be diagnosed by talking with parents and discussing the common symptoms. Usually no labs or X-rays are needed. It is important to discuss that these pains are almost always on both sides of the body and the pain is gone in the morning.
What is the cause of growing pains?
Growing pains are not actually caused by “bone growth”. The pain is related to increased activity of the legs (running and jumping) which leads to overuse and muscle exhaustion, as children have less bone strength then adults.
When to see your health care provider:
See your child’s health care provider if pain becomes persistent and does not improve in the morning, if pain is associated with fever, if the child has a limp with the pain, or if pain is associated with swelling/redness or fatigue.
- Treatment for growing pains:
- Heating pad or warm bath
- Motrin or Tylenol as needed
- Proper footwear
- Gentle massage to affected areas
Shad Brophy, PA-C, is a Physician Assistant providing Family Practice care at the CHI St. Alexius Health Medical Clinic in Dickinson and the Family Clinic in Beach. He sees patients ages 2 months and up for a wide range of concerns.