a child complains of joint or leg pains, parents or caregivers may be
concerned. Usually, the discomfort will simply be growing pains that will go
away on their own. However, people should be aware of the signs and symptoms
that may indicate something more serious.
Growing pains are a common cause of leg pain in children.
These pains are muscle aches that can occur in the thighs, behind the knees, or
Other possible causes of leg pain that may be more
serious can include juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA), lupus, Lyme disease,
In this article, we look at what we commonly refer to as
‘growing pains,’ what they are, and how people can treat them at home. We also
cover other possible causes of joint pains in children and when to see a
What are growing pains?
that more than 30 percent of school children experience chronic musculoskeletal
pain. In around half of these children, the pain is due to growing pains.
Growing pains most
often occur during a child’s preschool and preteen years, and they usually
disappear by their teenage years. These pains are harmless and are not a sign
of a serious condition.
typically occur in the thigh and calf muscles or behind the knees, but
sometimes can also happen in the arms. Children with these types of youthful
pains may experience cramps or aches that can range from mild to severe.
growing pains may include:
they occur in the evening or night and
typically resolving by morning
they are severe enough to wake a child
they usually affect both legs rather
they happen intermittently or several
nights in a row
they are often accompanied by headaches
or abdominal pain
People used to
think that growing pains were the result of the bones growing during growth
spurts. However, doctors no longer believe this to be the case, as there is no
evidence that growth causes pain.
Growing pains may
simply be aches that result from children running, jumping, and climbing while
playing, during the day.
Growing pains may
also be related to other factors, such as fatigue, restless leg syndrome, low
pain tolerance, or even vitamin D deficiency.
to ease growing pains
There is no
specific treatment for growing pains. However, the following home remedies can
help ease a child’s discomfort:
warm bath. Bathing in warm water, especially before bedtime, can help reduce aches
and pains and promote sleep.
Massaging. Gently massaging or
rubbing the affected area can make the child feel better. Merely holding
or cuddling the child may also help.
Stretching. Gently stretching the
calves and thighs during the day may ease or prevent symptoms. However,
stretching exercises may be challenging for younger children. Ask a doctor
what types of exercises are best.
Warmth. Try applying a
heating pad or hot water bottle to the affected area. Make sure these are
not too hot and take care to protect the child’s skin from burning. Do not
use these items during sleep.
(OTC) medication, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, can help relieve
aches and pains on an occasional basis.
People should not
give aspirin to children. Doctors do not recommend aspirin for children, as
they have linked it with a rare but serious condition called Reye’s syndrome.
caregivers frequently worry when children have pains in their legs and joints.
Close to a third of school-aged children may have these types of pains, which
usually get better on their own, and may be due solely to exercise and healthy
If the pains are
accompanied by any other symptoms or an adult is particularly concerned, they
should consult a doctor for further investigation, as some pains may indicate a
condition that needs medical intervention.
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