Growing Pains in Children

There certainly debate about the term growing pains in children. The term is often used to dismiss any pain that occurs in the legs of children. This may or may not be right. However, it is generally accepted that the typical growing pains in children is pain that only occurs at night, often waking the child. The night pain is typical.  The pain does not occur during the day and does not affect the joints or bone. If the bone or joints are affected and if the pain occurs during the day, then it does not meet the definition of growing pains and should be investigated further as there are some rare, but potentially serious problems that can cause the symptoms.

The causes of growing pains in children is not known, but is commonly believed to be a biochemical problem, perhaps related to sleep. Fatigue and biomechanics are also thought to play a role. The exact mix of these problems and there pathophysiology of how they lead to the symptoms is far from being full understood.

There is no real treatment for growing pains in children. The problem is self-limiting and will resolve eventually. The best treatment is just reassurance of the child and gentle massage or rubbing of the painful area until the child is ready to go back to sleep. In some cases, stretching has been shown to help and in others anti-inflammatory drugs might help, but these should be reserved for the more severe symptoms.

The key thing about growing pains in children is to reassure the child; the problem is self-limiting; but also be mindful that if the symptoms are not typical of growing pains, then further investigation is needed.

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