By Chad E. Aarons, MD, MPT
Unfortunately, we don’t know much about what are commonly known as growing pains. However, they can generally be classified as muscle or bone pains that children (preschoolers and preteens) feel in their legs. Oftentimes, these pains can stir children from their sleep.
Let’s explore how doctors can determine if the pains that are waking your son or daughter up at night are growing pains, or potentially something more serious.
Defining Growing Pains
Most children with growing pains are fine throughout the day, but may experience pain right before or right after they go to bed at night. The pain is generally felt in the shin or thigh. One common thought is that the pain is caused by the combination of your child’s activity during the day and them growing at night.
It’s possible that growing pains are simply muscle aches that come as the result of everyday child activities such as running or jumping. Your child may also be more likely to experience growing pains if he is very active in sports.
Growing pains tend to be different for each child. While some children experience major discomfort, the majority do not. Nor do most children experience growing pains on a daily basis, but rather during their biggest growth spurts.
Treating Growing Pains
Because there is little certainty regarding growing pains, the appropriate treatment options are somewhat ambiguous as well. In fact, “treating” growing pains largely consists of ruling out other problems such as a stress fracture, Lyme disease, and even cancer. While the odds of your child experiencing something beyond normal growing pains are rare, it’s important for you to note when your child is experiencing the pains, and for how long, as well as any other accompanying symptoms. Upon visiting your child’s pediatrician, this information can help him in his discovery. A physician may order lab work and/or x-rays to eliminate larger issues as the problem at hand.
Growing pains may be treated with ice, heat, pain relievers, or even by rubbing the area where the child complains of pain. However, there is no single correct way to provide treatment. As the parent, you likely know what methods and techniques soothe your child best.
Other Things to Know about Growing Pains
Most children who are experiencing growing pains have their issues resolved by the age of 10 and as a general rule, growing pains tend to present themselves during a child’s fastest growing times.
A physician can usually diagnose growing pains after asking a series of questions about a child’s medical history and administering a physical exam. Depending on the results of this examination, the aforementioned blood work and x-rays are usually not needed. It’s also possible a pediatrician may make a referral to a specific pediatric specialist.
If you have additional questions regarding growing pains that your child may be experiencing, I encourage you to contact us today.