Growing pains is a common term discussed by parents. Growing pains are described as achy muscle pain that affect some pre-schoolers and primary school children. Despite the name “growing pains,” there is no firm evidence that growing pains are linked to growth spurts.
What are the symptoms?
- Pain usually occurs in late afternoon or evenings, and may cause your child to wake up during the night
- Pain usually in both legs, instead of only one leg
- Affect muscles, not joints (mostly affects thigh muscles, calf muscles and hamstrings)
- Pain has usually resolved by morning; does not cause child to limp
- Usually coincides with increased activity levels
- Child may also get headaches
What causes Growing Pains?
The cause of growing pains remains unclear. The following theories however are major contributors:
- Increased activity – strenuous activities such as running, jumping and sports may result in muscle tiredness and pain in the feet and legs
- Poor lower limb posture – children who have collapsing arches (over-pronation) have more stress placed on their feet and legs and are often more prone to suffering ‘growing pains’
- Tight muscles – during growth children often have tight muscles which places more stress on tendons, bones and joints and can contribute to more generalised pain
- Joint hypermobility – where the ligaments are more ‘stretchy’ than they should be and therefore cannot provide adequate support to the joints. This means muscles in the feet and legs have to work harder to provide the stability – often resulting in generalised pain
How is this condition treated?
Firstly, it’s very important to rule out any more insidious causes of your child’s pain. See your GP if your child presents with the following: severe pain in only one leg, if pain affects them during the day, if the pain makes them limp, if they have joint swelling and redness, if they feel unwell or have a fever.
To treat growing pains:
- Apply heat using a heat pack or warm bath
- Increase water intake, especially on hot days and during sport
- Massage the sore muscles, apply a natural anti-inflammatory cream such as FisioCrem
- Take paracetamol if necessary
- Address lower limb biomechanics if it's a contributing factor – if your child has poor foot posture, tight muscles or joint hypermobility they are more prone to getting generalised, over-use leg pains.