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Growing pains or something more serious?

Kids’ aches and pains: Is it serious or just growing pains?

“Growing pains” might seem like an old-fashioned, catch-all phrase used to describe any aches and pains in childhood. But they do happen—though they don’t necessarily account for every ache or pain, and they have little to do with growing.

So what are growing pains?

Growing pains are cramping or aching pains that affect children’s limbs – usually their legs, more specifically their shins, calves, thighs, or behind their knees. These pains typically occur in both legs, mostly at night and may wake the child up. Despite the name, though, there’s no real evidence that these pains come from growing. 

Who’s most likely to experience growing pains?

Children between ages 3 and 12 are most susceptible, and both boys and girls are impacted equally. Older children, even into their teens, may also experience growing pains, though most pains subside by adolescence.  

What can you do to ease growing pains?  

Studies show that stretching as little as 10 minutes a day, three times each day can eliminate or alleviate growth pain. Massaging your child’s legs, applying a heating pad to soothe sore muscles, or over-the-counter pain reliever may also help.

When should you consider seeing a doctor?  

While growing pains typically disappear on their own, there are times when you may want to consider seeking medical attention.

  • If your child’s pains last longer than anticipated or seem to be more severe than typical growing pains.
  • If pain occurs after activity or playing a sport.
  • If home remedies no longer alleviate pain. 
  • If pain is accompanied by a fever.  

If your child is experiencing frequent leg pains that seem to go beyond growing pains, there is likely another source of their pain. Particularly as children move into adolescence, they may begin to participate in sports and other activities that could cause significant orthopaedic conditions, including: 

  • Runner’s/Jumper’s Knee, caused by repetitive, high-impact running or jumping. Your child may complain of pain at the front of the knee and around the kneecap.
  • Achilles Tendonitis due to overuse, repeated pounding, or excessive force on the Achilles tendon (and others), most common in student-athletes who run, pivot, or jump during play (as in basketball, soccer, or tennis).  
  • Sever’s Disease, which usually presents as a heel pain that may feel like a bruise in athletes who participate in running or jumping sports. 
  • Osgood-Schlatter Disease, in which the tendon that connects the shinbone to the kneecap pulls on the growth plate at the top of the shinbone.  

Is it time to book an appointment? 

If you’re concerned that your child’s growing pains are something more significant – or if you’re just not sure – it may be time to consider a visit with a specialist at DOC Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine. The physicians at DOC Orthopaedics can also work with your child to help determine the cause of pain and develop a personalized comprehensive care plan to help alleviate it. 

Since 1972, the specialists at DOC Orthopaedic have been committed to providing exceptional orthopaedic care through innovative techniques, quality services, patient communication, and education. With specialties ranging from general orthopaedics and physical therapy to sports medicine and more, the doctors at DOC Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine can provide local expert guidance to avoid injury, as well as any necessary care for any orthopaedic disorder or injury to help keep you healthy and pain free. Click here to set up an appointment today.

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