What are growing pains?
Growing pains involve your child’s musculoskeletal system, meaning their muscles and bones. These pains usually make your child’s legs hurt. They are common in children between 3 and 12 years old and are typically not serious. Growing pains are not the same as a growth spurt.
Growing pain symptoms can include:
- Pain in your child’s shins (front of lower leg), calves (back of lower leg), thighs, or the area behind their knees
- Pain in those areas that happens late in the day or during the night but goes away by morning.
Growing pains vary from child to child. Sometimes growing pains last just a few minutes; other times they last a few hours. The pain may be mild, or it may be severe. Not all children have growing pains. However, if your child does have them, the pain may come and go with many days in between without pain. Children with severe cases may feel pain every day.
Doctors don’t know what causes growing pains. They do know that children who have growing pains may feel more pain after physical activity than other children feel. Also, some children who have growing pains may have weaker bones than their peers.
There is no test to diagnose growing pains. Instead, your doctor may ask you questions about when and where your child has pain. Your doctor may also ask what your child did the day the pain started. Did your child spend part of the day playing sports, running, or jumping? A lot of physical activity during the day may cause growing pains to happen that night. Your answers to these questions may help your doctor diagnose your child with growing pains.
Your doctor may order tests to make sure the pains aren’t being caused by something else.
Can growing pains be prevented or avoided?
There’s no known way to prevent or avoid growing pains.
You may be able to help your child feel better when he or she has growing pains. Your doctor may suggest you do one or more of the following:
- Massage the painful area.
- Stretch the muscles in the painful area.
- Give your child a pain reliever such as acetaminophen (one brand: Tylenol) or an NSAID (one brand: Advil). Your doctor may suggest medicines be taken after the pain has started. Or, to avoid growing pains at night, your doctor may advise you to give your child medicine after a day with lots of physical activity. Daily medicines also may help if your child has growing pains every night.
Living with growing pains
Growing pains usually aren’t serious and are a common part of childhood for many children.
Growing pains may cause your child to be tired during the day. That’s because he or she may not sleep well when having the pains during the night. It’s important to know the techniques your doctor advises to help your child get back to sleep as soon as possible.
Questions to ask your doctor
- Why is my child having growing pains?
- Will my child grow out of growing pains?
- Why do growing pains happen late in the day or during the night?
- What can I do to help my child when he or she has growing pains?
Copyright © American Academy of Family Physicians
This information provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. Talk to your family doctor to find out if this information applies to you and to get more information on this subject.