Are growing pains real? | health beat
Your child complains of sore legs at night. The pain seems to be either a dull ache or a cramp.
Should we be worried?
“Nobody really knows the real cause of what’s called ‘growing pains,'” said John Kemppainen, MDsection chief of pediatric orthopedics at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital of Corewell Health. “The theory is that as bones grow, they pull on the muscles attached to them. But there’s no evidence that bone growth causes pain.
Growing pains can be a misleading term because the common pains children experience are not caused by growing up.
Possible causes include overwork, cramps, or lack of rest.
From preschool to preteen years, children can often complain of these types of pain, which usually affect the leg muscles.
“The vast majority are not of concern,” Dr Kemppainen said. “As long as it doesn’t stop what kids are doing, doesn’t stop their usual activities, there’s no reason for parents to be concerned.”
Dr. Kemppainen recommends over-the-counter children’s pain relievers for aches and pains.
The pain or stiffness usually occurs in the evening or at night and goes away in the morning. It can occur equally in boys and girls.
“Children don’t always know how to express pain,” Dr. Kemppainen said. “They could tell what gets mum’s expected response. But most parents know their child. They know when something is really unusual.
If a child has a loss of function, such as a limp that lasts more than a day or two or stops playing or participating in physical activity because of pain – pain that cannot be controlled with medication over the counter such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen – then it may be time to see your doctor.
A few areas of concern to watch out for:
- severe pain
- Swelling that persists beyond 24 hours
- Discoloration of the painful area
- Lump in the muscle
- Lameness that lasts more than a day or two
Although there is no test for what parents and caregivers commonly call growing pains, your child’s doctor may perform a physical exam to check for other possible causes in your child.
The doctor will ask your child questions about his daytime activities. Did they play sports? Did they run and exercise?
An abundance of physical activity during the day can lead to pain at night. Teaching your child to take breaks during physical activity can help relieve nighttime pain.
This type of pain can be treated with a gentle massage, a heating pad on the painful area, a warm bath or wearing insoles if necessary.
Simply resting can also help.
“If your child is still playing during the day, it’s fine,” Dr. Kemppainen said. “Children also suffer, but they may have a lower pain tolerance than adults. Unless it’s serious, there’s no need to worry.