You’ve probably heard of growing pains in kids, but have you ever wondered what exactly they are? Growing pains are achy, throbbing muscles in the legs that affect some 25-40% of kids before puberty. Children between the ages of 3 to 5 and 8 to 12 are most likely to complain of growing pains.
Your child might be experiencing growing pains if muscles in her thighs, calves, or behind the knee hurt in the late afternoon or evening. The pain might get bad enough to wake her up, but not to worry – a little heat and massage should do the trick. You can also give ibuprofen or acetaminophen to ease her pain (never give aspirin to a child, as it may cause Reye syndrome).
Growing pains are real, but we don’t know exactly what causes them. Even though the condition is restricted to children, there is no proof that growing is actually painful.
The most common explanation for growing pains is overuse. For example, your child has leg pain after a day full of running and jumping. Growing pains are typically felt in both legs and subside by morning time.
Parents should be concerned if your child’s pain does not subside with gentle rubbing, a heating pad, and some ibuprofen, or if your child refuses to let you touch her. An injury such as a growth plate fracture or ankle sprain is painful to touch, and the pain would be felt continually, not just at night. Limping, fever, weakness, and loss of appetite are also symptoms of something other than growing pains.
It is important to note that growing pains do not affect the joints. If your child complains of joint pain, if his joints appear swollen or red, or if they are tender or warm, this would be a sign of something more serious that a doctor should examine. For example, ongoing joint pain may be an early indication of juvenile arthritis, a rare autoimmune disorder.
If your child complains of ongoing pain in his muscles or joints, the best thing to do is to see a pediatric orthopedic specialist. In South Florida, Dr. Mark Moran sees children of all ages with musculoskeletal conditions ranging from scoliosis to sports injuries. Dr. Moran trained as a fellow at San Diego’s Children’s Hospital. With 25 years of experience, he can advise you on how to keep your child’s muscles and bones healthy and strong.
Learn more about pediatric orthopedic conditions we treat.