Growing pain is muscular pain predominantly occurring in lower legs among children. At least 30 to 40 percent of children between the ages of 4 to 12 years may experience growing pain. The pain tends to occur in both legs, especially in calf area, behind the knee, and in front part of thigh. Growing pain usually is experienced at night when the child is sleeping. It is benign condition but can be considerable cause of worry in parents when they observe their child suffering from pain in leg in middle of night.The pain vanishes in morning and there is no abnormality detected in the morning. The exact cause of growing pain is not known, but it is believed that some children may have low pain threshold. There is no particular treatment for growing pain and parents must be reassured. Symptomatic relief is possible from massage, applying hot pad etc on sore muscles.
Symptoms of Growing Pain
- Growing pain usually occurs in children between the ages of 4 to 12 years.
- Unlike popular belief there is no link between growth spurt and growing pain.
- Pain is of mild or severe intensity. It is throbbing in nature.
- Pain is bilateral, meaning it occurs in both lower limbs.
- Most children experience pain in calf muscles, front muscles of thigh and behind the knee.
- Joint are not involved and there is no pain in joints.
- Growing pain strikes mostly in evening and night. This pain can wake up the child from his sleep.
- There is no morning pain and the doctor does not detect any other physical abnormality.
- Pain occurs once or twice in a week. The episode remains for few hours.
- Sometimes arm muscles can also get affected.
Growing pain usually lasts for 30 minutes to 2 hours. It often goes away in morning. The episodes persist for few years and run a self limiting course.
Causes of Growing Pain
Although the name is growing pain, there is no established link between the pain and growth spurt as some people believe. The pain often is mistaken to be caused as a result of bone growth. The exact cause of growing pain is not known. Following are suspected to cause growing pains.
- Poor posture can be one of the reasons. Children having flat feet are known to experience this pain.
- Increased physical activity such as running, jumping, and climbing increase can trigger pain at night in lower limbs.
- Emotions play a significant role. Anxiety, worry, and stress all can trigger pain.
Unlike any injury or diseased condition, growing pain does not affect the child’s walking or running.
Growing Pain Treatment
There is no specific treatment for growing pain. This pain is benign and it gets better within one or two years on its own. Even if the pain does not resolve in one or two years, the pain usually becomes less. Treatment is mainly symptomatic to give relief to the child. Measure such as a gentle massage on painful area is beneficial. Applying warm pad over the sore muscles is also effective in reducing pain. In case of severe pain, the child may need mild pain reliever. Many doctors also suggest muscle stretching exercise during day. This will help to prevent pain at night.