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Growing Pains

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    TOP

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    TOP

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    TOP

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    TOP

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    TOP

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    TOP

There is no known way to prevent growing pains.

RESOURCES:

Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
http://www.familydoctor.org
Healthy Children—American Academy of Pediatrics
http://www.healthychildren.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Canadian Paediatric Society
http://www.cps.ca

References:

Growing pains. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Updated May 5, 2016. Accessed July 8, 2016.
Growing pains. Kids Health—Nemours Foundation website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Updated June 2015. Accessed July 8, 2016.
Growing pains are normal most of the time. Healthy Children—American Academy of Pediatrics website. Available at: https://www.healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/conditions/orthopedic/Pages/Growing-Pains-Are-Normal-Most-Of-The-Time.aspx. Updated November 21, 2015. Accessed July 8, 2016.
Last reviewed July 2016 by Michael Woods

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This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

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