Causes, Symptoms, And Treatment Of Growing Pains

child knees at doctor

Growing pains: we’ve all heard of it, but do we really know what it is and better yet, how to treat it? For many, they do remember those throbbing pains in the back of their knees or around their ankles during their preteen and teen years. For decades, parents have been dismissing it as simply that uncomfortable feeling you get when you are supposedly “growing too fast” during your prime years. And while no one knows if that is true or not, what we do know is that kids of all ages do experience symptoms of growing pains.

More often than not, growing pains are often described as an ache or throb in the legs — often in the front of the thighs, the calves or behind the knees. Here are just a few things you should look out for if your child is complaining of growing pains.


According to the MayoClinic, growing pains tend to affect both legs and occur at night, and may even wake a child from sleep. Although these pains are called growing pains, there's no evidence that growth hurts. Usually, both legs hurt. Growing pains often start to ache right before bedtime.

Growing pains usually start in early childhood, around age 3 or 4. They tend to come up again in kids aged 8-12. Also, it’s been noted that growing pains are different for everyone. Some kids don’t experience growing pains at all. Others have it almost every day. They may be experienced for months or even years.It’s important to listen to your child and monitor their daily activity before they go to bed. More often than not some of the pain they may be experiencing might be from any sort of physical activity that occurred during the day.

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While there are definitely plenty of theories as to why growing pains occur, there is no definite answer as to why they strike or when it can happen for that matter. Many health experts agree that growing pains don't usually happen where growth is occurring or during times of rapid growth. Furthermore, it’s been suggested that growing pains may be linked to restless legs syndrome. Also, muscle pain at night from overuse during the day is thought to be the most likely cause of growing pains. WebMD states that overuse from activities such as running, climbing, and jumping can be hard on a child's musculoskeletal system.

Also, keep in mind that children grow at different ages and stages.Girls stop growing and reach adult height usually between the ages of 14 or 15 years, or a couple of years after menstruation begins. The growth spurt of boys is about two years later than that of girls. By age 16, most boys have stopped growing, but their muscles will continue to develop.

When To See A Doctor

And while growing pains are very common and pose little to no risk, parents should look out for some symptoms though that should be brought to a doctor’s attention. First and foremost, if the pain is persistent and if your child is having a hard time falling asleep and staying asleep at night, call his or her pediatrician.

Also, if the pain is still present in the morning or is severe enough to interfere with your child’s day-to-day activities, you will definitely want to have a health professional examine what is going on. If the pain is located in the joints or associated with an injury, that’s another cause for concern. Other symptoms to look out for include swelling, redness, tenderness, fever, limping, rash, loss of appetite, weakness or fatigue.

If you do end up seeing a doctor, they will usually diagnose growing pains by examining your child and asking questions about his or her medical history and symptoms.

toddler walking on mom's feet
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What You Can Do At Home

If the pain is persistent at night, have your child do leg stretches before they go to bed, or help rub their muscles gently. Also, you can use a heating pad at night as the heat can help soothe sore muscles. In addition, a warm bath or compress can help treat muscle pain.

And last but not least, don’t worry. The pain will go away. Sometimes all you need to do is give your child a pain relief tablet that could help lessen the pain. Sometimes the best pain relief is plenty of hugs, kisses and reassurance from mom and dad that everything will be OK.

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