Growing Pain (Leg Pain) in Kids: Causes, Signs & Remedies
Kids from the age group from 8 to 12 often suffer from pain behind their calves or knees at night. This pain is referred to as growing pain because of their age. Knowing what it is, and how to remedy it is sure to help you deal with any pain your child experiences.
What Is Growing Pain?
Kids are always on the move, running, jumping and playing a million games. While this is good for the child’s health, the downside is that excess physical activity often leads to leg pain in children during late afternoons and evenings. This pain is often referred to as growing pain, but till date, no research has been able to identify the correlation between the two.
Growing pain is an aching or throbbing pain with a low pain threshold which might be severe enough to wake your kid from sleep. Normally the pain is centred at the back of the knee, calves, or front of thighs. Although it can be an intense ache, the good news is that it can easily be treated with a mild heat pad below or above the affected areas and a simple massage on the affected area.
Parents normally dismiss these symptoms because this leg pain in children vanishes miraculously in the mornings making them think that their children might be faking the pain. But actually, that is not the case at all. Pain sometimes resolves itself in the morning and kids are again fit to be active till the pain relapses.
Causes of Leg Pain in a Child
Children are most active during their pre-teen ages, but growing pain can start as early as the age of 3 and is most frequently reported by kids in the age group of 8-12.
- These children are very active and are frequently found running, jumping, and climbing. Because of the low threshold of pain they normally don’t pay attention to the strain until they are immobile.
- Studies all over the world have found that growing pain is generally seen in children who have indulged in a full day of sports.
- The musculoskeletal system of children can’t take the pressure of all-day sports at such a tender age.
- Growing pain can also be linked to restless leg syndrome.
- Growing pain has nothing to do with growing parts of the body or the faster growth of the children who are active in sports.
Parents should not discourage children from taking an active interest in sports because of these growing pains. Normally the pain stops when they stop growing, so these pains are very easily manageable and curable.
Child Growing Pain Signs and Symptoms
Growing pain normally doesn’t hit both limbs. So parents must notice that their child may have leg pain in one leg. The subtle signs and symptoms of growing pain are:
- Throbbing pain like mild cramps in one or both the legs
- Aching of muscles in the late afternoon or evening
- Experiencing pain which centralizes at the frontal portion of thighs, calves or back of the knees
- Experiencing pain which does not occur every day
- There may be other symptoms like headaches or abdominal pain during episodes of growing pain
Diagnosis of Childhood Growing Pain
A diagnosis of growing pain is easily done by doctors through what they refer to as diagnosis through exclusion. This means that the diagnosis of growing pains is done after excluding all the usual suspected ailments. It is normally very easy to diagnose these pains as the patients respond very well to touch.
While patients with other types of pain don’t respond well to physical touch or massages, patients with growing pain feel rather comfortable with massages and cuddling as it eases their pain. In very rare cases, however, doctors may ask for blood tests and x-rays. This is not a bad thing as it helps eliminate other underlying conditions of leg pain if any.
Various treatments are suggested for growing pain which presents itself as severe leg pain or leg pain at night. This ailment can be easily taken care of by simple painkillers like ibuprofen or acetaminophen. Aspirins are absolutely not recommended for children or teens as studies have linked aspirin use in children to Reye’s syndrome which is a very serious condition that causes the liver and brain to swell.
To determine how much ibuprofen or acetaminophen should be administered, you can talk to a doctor. It is recommended that you refrain from giving any medication unless the pain is really unbearable for your child. There are other ways to tackle these problems at home.
For children or teens suffering from growing pains, it is very easy to prepare a suitable remedy at home. There are numerous home remedies that are very helpful in reducing growing pain substantially. These include the following:
- Massaging the affected leg: Normally muscle cramping goes away with a good massage of the area. Using warm oil for massage is a great option too.
- Using heat pad: Using heat pads under or over the affected area tends to minimise the pain and helps your child feel relaxed after some time.
- Stretching the muscles: Stretching the muscles of your child’s leg in the mornings may also help in minimising the pain at night. Please visit your physiotherapist or doctor to know more about the stretching exercise.
- Citrus fruits or juices: Parents are advised to give citrus fruits like oranges or its juices (preferably freshly extracted) to their kids before playtime. This will help in providing them with vitamin C and so that their muscles can resist soreness.
When You Should Consult the Doctor
While growing pain is not the type of ailment one should worry about, one must watch out for other symptoms like the following:
- Pain in the morning
- Loss of appetite
- Sensitivity to touch or massage
- Unusual behaviour
Normally growing pains do not interfere with your child’s ability to do usual things like playing, but if you observe any of the changes listed above, do visit a doctor for a thorough check-up.
Things to Remember
Growing pain in your child or teen is a very normal phenomenon and it can be easily tackled. If you are under the impression that your child may be faking the pains as it does not present itself in the mornings, then you are mistaken, as growing pains rarely occur in the morning. If your child is having trouble sleeping because of muscle pain, you may reassure them by telling them the discomfort is temporary and is sure to go away after they stop growing.
Growing pains are a normal part of the process of your child’s body attaining maturity. If your child is suffering, just apply a warm compress and massage and cuddle them to sleep, knowing that they will be better in no time.
Also Read: Migraine in Children