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Growing Pains

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Growing Pains


This is a common condition, especially in the age group of 3-10 years. Classically symptoms are worse at nights. Usually the child wakes up in the middle of the night complaining of pain in both legs and knees. After a short period of massage and rubbing the painful area, symptoms resolve and the child goes back to sleep comfortably. Symptoms are uncommon in the day time. The exact cause of growing pains is unknown. It has been assumed that skeletal growth which mainly occurs at night increases the limb length and this increases the stress on the soft tissues which tend to lag behind in growth. Growing pains is a diagnosis of exclusion. Mode of presentation, age of the child and bilateral nature of the symptoms are strongly suggestive. However, thorough clinical examination and plain radiographs are needed to exclude rare but serious conditions such as tumour or infection which could mimic growing pains.

What Causes Them?

No firm evidence shows that the growth of bones causes pain. The most likely causes are aches and discomfort as a result of jumping, climbing, and running that active kids do during the day. The pains can occur after a child has had a particularly athletic day.

Signs and Symptoms

Growing pains always are concentrated in the muscles, rather than in the joints. Most kids complain of pain in the front of their thighs, in the calves or behind the knees. Whereas joints affected by more serious diseases are swollen, red, tender or warm, the joints of kids experiencing growing pains appear normal. Although growing pains often occur late in the afternoon or early in the evening before going to bed, pain can sometimes wake a sleeping child. The intensity of the pain varies from child to child, and most kids don't experience the pain every day.

Diagnosing Growing Pains

One symptom that doctors find most helpful in making a diagnosis of growing pains is how the child responds to touch while in pain. Kids who have pain from a serious medical disease don't like to be touched because any movement tends to increase the pain. But those with growing pains respond differently. They feel better when they're held, massaged, and cuddled.

Treatment may include:

  • rest
  • activity restrictions
  • non-steroidal pain medication
  • bed rest and traction
  • casting or bracing
  • physical therapy
  • crutches or wheelchair (in some cases)
  • surgery (osteotomy, osteoplasty)

Alert your doctor if any of the following symptoms occur with your child's pain

  • persistent pain, pain in the morning, swelling or redness in one particular area or joint
  • pain associated with a particular injury
  • fever
  • limping
  • unusual rashes
  • loss of appetite
  • weakness
  • tiredness
  • uncharacteristic behavior

These signs are not due to growing pains and should be evaluated by the doctor. Although growing pains often point to no serious illness, they can be upsetting to a child — or a parent. Because a child seems completely cured of the aches in the morning, parents sometimes suspect that the child faked the pain. However, this usually is not the case. Support and reassurance that growing pains will pass as kids grow up can help them relax.

Authored By : DR. DAVID V RAJAN

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