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Growing pains in kids: Complete guide for parents

The transition from childhood to early adulthood may seem swift on the surface. However, there is much that a child has to experience while growing up. From routine wellness habits to settling with hormonal changes and emotional upheavals, they also have to undergo some extent of pain in the process. Growing pains is one such phase that affects children, especially during the night. In this article, Dr Shreya Dubey, leading paediatrics and neonatologist at the CK Birla Hospital gives you an overview of growing pains in kids. 

What are growing pains in kids?

A dull throbbing muscular ache felt by children in their legs is identified as growing pains. Your child may complain of sharp pain in front of the thighs, the calves and behind the knees if they are suffering from growing pains. 

The intensity of this pain is felt in both the legs and is felt most during the night. It often starts in the afternoon or evening. 

A child between the age group of 2-12 years is most likely to experience growing pains. In most cases, this condition is not persistent and the pain usually comes and goes. 

What are the symptoms of growing pains in kids?

This condition is characterised by pain in both legs. Nevertheless, some symptoms are uncommon and vary in children. 

Symptoms of growing pains in kids include:

  • Pain in legs; mainly in the shins, thighs, calves and back of the knees
  • Pain in arms
  • Infrequent headaches 
  • Episodes of abdominal pain 
  • Back pain
  • Severe pain that disturbs your child’s sleep 

Only a verified healthcare provider can diagnose growing pains in kids. Most often, your medical doctor will assess your health to rule out the possibility of any other condition. 

You must seek urgent medical help if:

  • Your child’s pain is persistent 
  • The pain does not go away by the morning 
  • It disrupts your child’s everyday activities
  • The pain expands to the joints
  • Pain in legs is caused by an injury 
  • There are other symptoms such as swelling, redness, fever and more

It is not essential that your child’s pain in legs is due to growing pains. Several other conditions can cause similar pain such as:

What causes growing pains?

There is no known cause for growing pains. A child’s development through the years does not necessarily cause pain and discomfort. 

Research has suggested the possibility of an association between growing pains and restless leg syndrome. Some medical experts also believe that muscle cramps and pain in the night may result from exertion throughout the day. Since children put their legs to great use, as compared to adults, they may also feel higher pain. Activities such as running, climbing, jumping and more can tire a child and cause pain. 

Despite its name, the idea that growing pain is related to a child’s development is not certain. It is because our bones keep growing most parts of our life. Bone growth should not cause pain in the legs and arms. 

Watch Dr Shreya Dubey, Paediatric & neonatology specialist at the CK Birla Hospital talks about growing pains in kids and warning signs to look out for. She also gives a few tips to help you manage your child’s growing pain effectively at home.

How are growing pains diagnosed?

A detailed investigation of the symptoms is usually enough to diagnose growing pains. Your healthcare provider will ask a range of questions such as:

  • Where does the child feel the pain?
  • Is your child able to do his everyday tasks?
  • When does the pain usually start?
  • When did you notice the pain first?

Your doctor will evaluate your physical health and analyse your personal and family medical history. 

Your doctor may not need to order additional tests and screenings to diagnose growing pains. However, to rule out the possibility of other musculoskeletal conditions, an X-ray may be indicated. 

What is the treatment of growing pains in kids?

Growing pains are not aggravating and do not further develop into other conditions. In most incidences, the intensity of the pain gradually lessens and vanishes within a year or two. Therefore, there is no particular treatment protocol for growing pains. 

However, there are several clinical measures and home remedies to alleviate the pain and help your child to deal with it. 

Here are some expert-approved measures you can take to treat growing pains:

  • Massage: Massaging your child’s legs and arms at the end of the day can ease the pain. You can use a carrier oil or lotions to massage. Your child will feel calm and relaxed and it can also be a healthy bonding time for you. 
  • Heat pads: Apply heat to your child’s aching areas can often instant relief. Heating pads can relax sore muscles. However, you should ensure that the heat is bearable and does not irritate your kid’s skin. 
  • Warm bath: A warm water bath before bed can calm your child’s senses and relax them. It can also help in easing the pain by relaxing muscles. 
  • Stretching exercises: Stretching exercises are helpful in strengthening your muscles. You can incorporate stretches in your child’s favourite games. A couple of stretches during the day will reduce the likelihood of pain at the night. 
  • Pain relief medicines: If your child complains of severe pain, you can ask your doctor for pain relief medicines. 
  • Good posture and support: You should ask your child to correct their posture to avoid extra strain. Additionally, make sure that they are not wearing worn-out shoes. Shoes with good arch support can help in reducing pain overtime. 

Due to the insufficient research on growing pains, it is also not known if they can be prevented. However, an active lifestyle and a sufficient supply of nutrients to your child’s body can help them cope. 

You should make sure that your child is getting all the needed nutrients. Your child’s diet must include fibrous fruits and vegetables. You should also ensure that your child is taking plenty of rest. If they are fatigued throughout the day, you should divide nap times for them. 

The concluding note 

Growing pains are mostly harmless. The pain and discomfort associated with this condition can be dealt with clinical intervention and extra care by the parents. However, it is necessary for parents to ask for the opinion of doctors so that complications can be avoided. 

If you wish to learn more about growing pains, book an appointment with Dr Shreya Dubery, best paediatric doctor at the CK Birla Hospital. 

FAQs

Ques: At what age do the kids get growing pains?

Ans: Growing pains usually start during early childhood. It affects a child between the age of 3 and 5 or 8 and 12 years. 

Ques: How long do the growing pains last?

Ans: Growing pains affect every child differently. Mostly, it appears in intervals and lasts for nearly half an hour. 

Ques: Do growing pains mean a growth spurt?

Ans: Despite the names, there is no clear evidence that growing pains are linked with a growth spurt. 

Ques: Can you take anything for growing pains?

Ans: No, it is ideal to consult a medical expert for the treatment of growing pains. 

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Author: Dr Shreya Dubey
Dr Shreya Dubey is one of the Best Child Doctor in Gurgaon. She completed her post-graduation from King George Medical University. With 10 years of experience, she is a high-risk newborn specialist and ELBW babies’ care, neonatal intensive care, infant nutrition, and child and adolescent health.
 
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