Growing pains are often described as an ache or throb in the legs — often in the front of the thighs, the calves or behind the knees. Growing pains tend to affect both legs and occur at night, and may even wake a child from sleep.
Although these pains are called growing pains, there’s no evidence that growth hurts. Growing pains may be linked to a lowered pain threshold or, in some cases, to psychological issues. There’s no specific treatment for growing pains. You can make your child more comfortable by putting a warm heating pad on the sore muscles and massaging them.
Growing pains are one cause of recurring discomfort in children. The pains usually occur in the evening or night. The pain can be bad enough to wake a child in the night.
Usually growing pains occur in the legs, particularly:
• In the back of the leg below the knee (the calf).
• At the front of the leg below the knee (the shin).
• Around the ankles.
• At the front of the leg above the knee (the thigh).
Growing pains usually are felt in both legs. They are usually felt in the areas between the joints, rather than in the joints themselves.
Types of growth pain
Growth pain is divided into the following types according to the region of occurrence. The following categories are common-
• Ingrown toe-nails pain: In this condition, the nails grow into the lateral skin and are very common in growing feet, causing tremendous pain
• Flat feet pain: It occurs due to collapsed arches that make running or walking difficult. Few children develop steep arches, which require proper arch support.
• Warts pain: Growing children often develop warts (patchy skin with black spots) on the sole of their feet, which can be painful and prevent the children from running or walking properly.
• Heel pain: Abnormal swelling of the heel due to excess pressure on the heel bone can restrict a child from performing physical activities.
Symptoms of Growing pain
Growing pains usually cause an aching or throbbing feeling in the legs. This pain often occurs in the front of the thighs, the calves or behind the knees. Usually both legs hurt. Some children may also experience abdominal pain or headaches during episodes of growing pains. The pain doesn’t occur every day. It comes and goes.
Growing pains often strike in the late afternoon or early evening and disappear by morning. Sometimes the pain awakens a child in the middle of the night.
Causes of Growing pain
The cause of growing pains is unknown. But there’s no evidence that a child’s growth is painful.
Growing pains don’t usually happen where growth is occurring or during times of rapid growth. It’s been suggested that growing pains may be linked to restless legs syndrome. But muscle pain at night from overuse during the day is thought to be the most likely cause of growing pains. Overuse from activities such as running, climbing and jumping can be hard on a child’s musculoskeletal system.
Growing pains are more common in active children. It is possible the pains are due to the effect of lots of activity on muscles and bones. Some research studies have considered whether growing pains might have a relation to vitamin D levels. If a child has low vitamin D levels, vitamin D supplements seem to help with growing pains. Many children with growing pains have normal vitamin D levels however.
• Researchers believe increased physical activity can lead to overuse of your child’s muscles, which can cause pain.
• Some studies show that children with growing pains have a lower pain threshold. These children are more likely to have headaches and abdominal pain as well.
• Many children with growing pains have very flexible joints (hypermobility) and haveflat feet. Being hypermobile can cause growing pains.
• Psychological factor: Psychosomatic pains occur in the stomach, accompanied by anxiety induced headaches in few children. These are contributing factors of growing pains. The disturbed family environment can also lead to psychological growth pain.
• Pain threshold: In few children, the tolerance limit of any form of pain is very less, (at times due to decreased muscle and bone strength) which leads to growing pains in their childhood and adolescence.
• Bad posture: Bending for a long time or sleeping in a defective position can trigger growth pains.
• Obesity: Children who are overweight tend to develop growth pains due to excessive pressure on the leg muscles and joints.
• Blood perfusion changes: Children having headaches (mostly migraine headaches) complain of growth pain. This proves that growing pains are associated with an altered vascular perfusion which triggers a migraine.
Usually no tests are needed for growing pains. A doctor can usually diagnose growing pains from your description and by examination. There should be nothing unusual to find on examination of a child with growing pains. Blood tests and X-rays would be normal in a child with growing pains. So there is no need to do these tests unless there are symptoms or signs suggesting other causes.
Growing pains typically occur on both sides of your child’s body and disappear by morning. If your child’s pain is only on one side of their body and/or they wake up with pain or stiffness, your child’s healthcare provider may order laboratory tests or imaging tests to rule out other potential causes of the pain.
Pain relief is all that is needed. Some options which may be helpful are:
• Heat pads.
• Gently massaging the painful areas.
• Stretching the muscles in the painful areas.
• Putting a heating pad over the painful area.
• Increasing physical activity.
• Heat pads.
• Firmly rubbing the painful area (massage).
• Reassuring your child that there is nothing seriously wrong.
• General body ache and occasional fever.
• Extreme fatigue and weakness.
• Abnormal loss of appetite.
• Mild fever.
• Profuse sweating.
• Difficulty walking, running or swimming.
• Occasional limp.
• Muscle stiffness.