What are “Growing Pains,” other than a corny ’80s sitcom starring Kirk Cameron?
Well, they’re muscle aches that can be quite painful. They affect kids in two age groups — early childhood (3-4) and late childhood/early adolescence (8-12). They’re also fairly common, affecting 25-40% of children at some point in their lives. They’re often achy, cramping pains in both legs that may be strong enough to wake up kids at night. For some reason, they tend to happen most often in late afternoon/evening.
Growing pains can be a bit puzzling. There isn’t any hard data on what causes them, and it probably isn’t truly “growing” that causes the pain, but rather an extremely active and busy day (activities such as running, jumping and climbing) that can bring on muscle aches.
They’re also somewhat irregular — pains often come and go, and children tend to outgrow them eventually. Even if they’re quite painful at night, the pain often disappears the next morning. Most importantly, they do not interfere with a child’s level of activity during the day.
The pains are often in the calves, but they may also be the thighs and behind the knees. The important thing to know is that they are most often bilateral.
What Can We Do About Them?
Often massaging the legs and some gentle stretching can help. In fact, knowing that your child responds to massage and touch is a good sign. True injury/illness usually does NOT feel better with touch/massage. Moist heat can also be helpful for those sore muscles. (Just be careful not to leave a heating pad on while sleeping). Tylenol or Motrin may also be helpful in some cases.
When Should I Worry?
There are times when limb pain is not normal. Fever and a limp for example, are never normal and should be checked out right away.
Also, call us in the office if you see any of these other signs:
- Limb pain after an injury
- Pain and morning stiffness
- Limb pain on one side only
- Loss of appetite and/or weight loss
- Red, warm, or swollen joints
- Easy bruising/bleeding
Dr. Susan Stevens, who co-teaches our Puberty. Seriously? class for girls ages 9-12, joined Kids Plus in 2012.