Growing Pains in Children
Posted: Sep 06, 2021
Growing pains are relatively common in children. Almost always the typical growing pains is benign and outgrown. Despite this each case must be taken very seriously and given a proper assessment as there are some important conditions that have similar symptoms to growing pains and can potentially have very serious consequences if not detected early and treated.
The typical symptoms of growing pains are that they occur at night. They do not occur during the daytime. They typically occur early evening, usually just after the child goes to sleep or is about to go to sleep. The pain is typically behind the knee or in the upper part of the calf muscles. They will wake the child and they often can be quite distressed. Palpation of the area that they say where the pain is, does not locate any painful spots. If the symptoms do not match this description, then they are probably not growing pains and are due to a different reason. That other reasons for the symptoms needs to be determined due to the potentially serious nature of them.
The most common condition that mimics growing pains is a simple muscular strain or sprain. There will be pain on palpation in these cases and the pain is there all the time and not just at night. The pain in these is related to activity levels. The most serious mimic of growing pains is a cancer in the bone. This is very uncommon, but the consequences are very serious, hence the importance of getting the diagnosis right. The pain of this can appear to be more painful at night, but the pain also there during the day and feels deep inside the bone and not always located at the back of the knee like a typical growing pain. Imaging will be needed to help make this diagnosis.
Growing pains are always benign and the child will grow out of them. If they don’t then its not growing pains. They can, however, cause a bit of distress for the child and parents while waiting for that to happen. Treatment is generally by just giving the child some reassurance and some gentle rubbing of the painful area. Sometimes mild pain medication can be helpful to assist in getting the child back to sleep. Some research has linked a vitamin D deficiency to some cases of growing pains, so supplements may be worth a try. Some have reported some reasonable results using stretching exercises to help. The most important is getting the diagnosis right and reassurance of the child that this is a benign problem.
Any pain that gets dismissed as just a growing pain must be checked out as soon as possible with a thorough assessment to get a correct diagnosis as to if it really is a growing pain or if it is one of many other conditions that have similar symptoms. The consequences of getting this wrong or delaying assessment does have potentially serious consequences for the child. Please take growing pains seriously.
Craig Payne is a University lecturer, runner, cynic, researcher, skeptic, forum admin, woo basher, clinician, rabble-rouser, blogger and a dad.