Growing Pains: What’s the Deal?


ORLANDO, Fla. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — Growing pains are a common complaint during childhood. But there’s a lot of mystery surrounding this condition. Ivanhoe reports on what we know about growing pains and how to help the hurt.

One sure thing about kids is they grow – and sometimes very quickly!

For about half of all children, growing years bring discomfort. Growing pains usually affect kids between ages three and 12. They occur in a child’s thighs, calves, shins, or behind the knees. Some kids also have pain in their arms. These aches usually happen in the late afternoon or during the night.

Roque Correa says, “I think between the ages of maybe eight and 12. It was pain on my legs, mainly on my legs…especially down my knees.”

Growth hormone is emitted when kids sleep, which is one theory that could explain the timing of the symptoms. While the cause of growing pains is unknown, some research has suggested overuse of limbs or poor posture may be related. And sometimes other pain syndromes accompany growing pains. A new study found 76 percent of kids who experienced growing pains also had headaches five years later compared to 22 percent of those who didn’t have growing pains.

Treatment typically includes giving kids over-the-counter ibuprofen or acetaminophen, gentle massage and stretching. Applying heat to the area can also help ease the hurt. If the pain is persistent and severe, you should let your child’s doctor know. Helping kids with growing pains find relief.

Though they’re called “growing” pains, experts say symptoms are usually not worse during growth spurts, and the pain is not confined to growth areas of bones. Some believe the discomfort may just be due to all the running, jumping, and climbing that active kids do on a daily basis.

Contributors to this news report include: Julie Marks, Producer; Roque Correa, Editor.




REPORT #3151

BACKGROUND: Growing pains typically start when kids are three to 12 years old and consist of leg pains and soreness that happen at night. The pain usually occurs in the thighs, calves, shins, or behind the knees and most often is in both legs, not involving the joints. Growing pains often strike in late afternoon or early evening before bed, but the pain can sometimes wake a sleeping child. These pains may last for months or years, but they don’t happen every day. The cause is unsure, and the pain is not worse during growth spurts or around the growth areas of bones. There is no medical test , so doctors diagnose them based on a child’s symptoms. These symptoms include if a child is healthy and has leg pain at night that gets better with massage, heat, and over-the-counter pain medicine; is active and has no pain during the day; and has a normal physical exam.


CAUSES AND TREATMENT: There’s no known cause of growing pains, but there’s no evidence that growth causes the pain. 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, therefore, are more likely to have headaches and abdominal pain. Many children with growing pains have very flexible joints (hypermobility) and flat feet. Being hypermobile can cause growing pains. One study found that children with growing pains have less bone strength due to low vitamin D levels. Treatment options can include gently massaging the painful areas; stretching the muscles in the painful areas; putting a heating pad over the painful area; giving your child mild over-the-counter pain medications, such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or naproxen; increasing physical activity; strengthening hypermobility with physical therapy; and wearing orthotics if your child has flat feet.


GROWING PAINS EARLY SIGN OF MIGRAINE IN CHILDREN: Findings from a study at the Federal University of Delta do Parnaiba, in Piaui, Brazil, demonstrated that pain in the lower limbs of children and adolescents was significantly associated with migraines. These findings suggest that this pain, referred to as “growing pains” by clinicians, may indicate the presence or risk of migraine in these adolescents. After 5 years of follow-up with 78 patients, headaches occurred in 76% of participants who had growing pains and in 22% of controls. Growing pains persisted in 14% of participants who had growing pains at the beginning of the study and appeared in 39% of participants who were previously asymptomatic. Lead author Raimundo Pereira Silva-Néto, MD, PhD, MSc, adjunct professor, said, “In families of children with growing pains, there is an increased prevalence of other pain syndromes, especially migraine among parents. On the other hand, children with migraine have a higher prevalence of growing pains, suggesting a common pathogenesis; therefore, we hypothesized that growing pains in children are a precursor or comorbidity with migraine.”


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