Definition

Growing pains are temporary pains of the limbs in children. They often occur in the afternoon, evening, or shortly after going to sleep. These pains usually last 30 minutes to 2 hours. These pains are not associated with serious or dangerous conditions.

Causes

Growing pains are not actually associated with growth. The pain may develop for no reason or after periods of excessive physical activity, such as running, jumping, and climbing. It may also be the result of:

  • Lower pain threshold
  • Decreased bone strength
  • Hypermobility syndrome—the joint is looser than it should be

Risk Factors

Growing pains are most common in children aged 4-14 years. It occurs equally in boys and girls.

Factors that may increase the risk of growing pains include:

  • A family history of growing pains
  • Emotional or family stress
  • Personal or family history of migraines
  • Family history of restless legs syndrome (RLS)

Rapid growth has not been proven to be a risk factor for growing pains.

Symptoms

Growing pains often occur in the front of the thighs, calves, or behind the knees but may also occur in the upper limbs. The pain will come and go and does not occur every day. Pain that occurs in the evening may awaken a child from sleep.

Growing pain does not happen in the morning and does not occur constantly.

The Knee
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Diagnosis

The doctor will ask about pain and any other symptoms, as well as medical history. A physical exam will be done.

The doctor may suspect growing pains based on your description. No further testing is needed.

Treatment

Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for your child. Growing pains will pass on their own. Over time, the pains will become less painful and eventually will stop happening all together.

During an episode, some basic home care can help decrease discomfort, such as:

  • Massage
  • Stretching
  • Applying heat to the area
  • Over the counter pain medications, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen

Prevention

There is no known way to prevent growing pains.

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