Growing Pains – What Are They? Are They Real?

Many of us tend to think of the term ‘Growing Pains’ only in metaphorical terms, however these are actual aches and pains that many children to experience as part of their growing up years.

Children typically experience growth spurts when their physical development is seen to be visibly accelerated, and it is during these times of a growth spurt that such pains may be experienced. Some clinicians suggest that the term “recurrent limb pain in childhood” be used to describe the condition rather than the more generic term “growing pains.”

These are aches and pains in the muscles that are thought to be caused due to normal processes of growth, which may in cases have significant impact on a child’s life.

An estimated 25 to 40% of children between the ages 3 and 5; and 8 and 12 may experience growing pains to a larger or lesser extent.

Causes of growing pains

It is not clear how and why exactly growing pains occur, though tiredness and physical exercise may be likely reasons. Perhaps a faulty posture could contribute to the pains.

It is also suggested that certain emotional disturbances could be behind the episodes of pain. A low pain threshold may also contribute to growing pains.

The symptoms of growing pains typically are –

  • Muscular rather than joint pain is experienced by children with growing pains.
  • There may be no outward sign of anything being the matter – parents will typically see no redness, soreness, inflammation or warmth with growing pains; these sings are not seen with growing pains and could indicate other problems.
  • The pain is experienced usually in the limbs – the knees and calves, front of the thighs, are very common sites for growing pains.
  • The pain typically manifests late in the evening or at night and may be severe enough for the child to cry in pain or awaken from the pain.
  • The pain is variable and may be more or less intense on successive days.
  • Unlike pain caused by other conditions, growing pains can be significantly soothed by pressing or massaging of the limbs. Comforting and cuddling a child may also make him or her feel significantly better.
  • To diagnose if a child’s pains are caused by growing pains, other possible causes should be ruled out.

Treatment for growing pains

One significant part of treatment for growing pains is the allaying of the anxiety of parents and children by understanding the self resolving nature of the pain. Explaining that the pain is self limiting, normal, and usually resolves itself in time can be comforting for the sufferer as well as the parents.

Massage, comforting of the child and if required pain medication that is age appropriate are usually the only kinds of treatment that growing pains require. Including certain stretching can also be helpful in controlling pain.

In some cases, using devices such as in-shoe inserts such as triplane wedges or orthotics may also be useful. It is also suggested that growing pains may have some connection with lower bone strength and that supplements containing calcium and vitamin D could help the situation as well.


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