Definition

Growing pains are harmless pains of the limbs in children. They often happen at night and last 30 minutes to 2 hours.

Causes

Growing pains do not happen from growing. The exact cause is not known. Things that may play a role are:

  • Excess physical activity
  • Lower pain threshold
  • Decreased bone strength
  • Loose joints

Risk Factors

This problem is more common in children who are 4 to 14 years of age.

Other things that may raise the risk are:

  • 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 does not increase the risk of this problem.

Symptoms

Growing pains often happen in both sides of the thighs, calves, or behind the knees. Some children may also have pain on one side or in the upper limbs.

The pain will come and go, but often lasts 30 minutes to 2 hours. It usually happens at night. This may cause problems sleeping.

The Knee

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Diagnosis

You will be asked about your child's symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done. This is often enough to make the diagnosis.

Treatment

Growing pains will go away with time. Home care may help. Choices are:

  • Over the counter pain medicine, such as acetaminophen
  • Stretching
  • Massage
  • Applying heat to the area

Prevention

There are no known ways 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

Health Canada
https://www.canada.ca

REFERENCES:

Growing pains. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:https://www.dynamed.com/condition/growing-pains. Accessed September 22, 2020.

Growing pains. Kids Health—Nemours Foundation website. Available at: http://kidshealth.org/en/parents/growing-pains.html. Accessed September 22, 2020.

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. Accessed September 22, 2020.

Mohanta MP. Growing pains: practitioners' dilemma. Indian Pediatr. 2014 May;51(5):379-383.

Last reviewed March 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Kari Kassir, MD  Last Updated: 9/22/2020