Growing Pains

Have you noticed that your son or daughter has been experiencing a lot of leg pain recently? Does this pain come and go, and become particularly intense at night? If so, then you child may be experiencing what many of us refer to as growing pains. Growing pains are a normal part of child development and affect most children at some point during adolescence. Growing pains are typically nothing to worry about, however, these pains can sometimes be an indication of an underlying condition or illness. For this reason, it is important to be able to recognize the difference between common growing pains and other, more serious childhood conditions.


Get Growing

The term "growing pains" refers to those mysterious muscle aches that affect many children at some point during adolescence. Typically causing foot pain, knee pain, and leg pain, growing pains usually occur at night, and may last for a few minutes or for much longer periods. The intensity of growing pains can vary from child to child, and may be a real cause of concern for both you and your little one. However, most growing pains are harmless and usually go away on their own.

What Causes Growing Pains?
No one is completely sure what actually causes growing pains. Contrary to their name, these growing pains do not appear to be associated with the growth of the bones in your child�s body (because bones grow so slowly, they are unlikely to cause any real pain in children). Instead, it is most likely that these growing pains are the result of physical overexertion, including:


  • muscle strain
  • muscle tension
  • general fatigue


Symptoms of Growing Pains
Growing pains typically occur at night and usually last between ten minutes and one hour. They can come and go from week to week, and may affect your child for up to a year. They usually occur in the calves, thighs, or behind the knee, and may affect only one or both legs at a time. These pains are mostly located within the muscles and usually disappear by morning. They should not interfere with walking. If they do, it could be a sign of something more serious that requires a visit to your child�s doctor.

Treating Growing Pains
Real growing pains typically do not require medical treatment from a health care professional. Intead, you can help to treat your child�s pain at home, using the following techniques:


  • Massage your child�s painful legs. Massage often helps to relieve growing pains.
  • Try immersing your child�s leg in a warm bath, or place a warm heating pad on the area. This will help tense muscles to relax.
  • Encourage your child to stretch before all activities.
  • Give your child a mild analgesic, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Do not give any child under the age of 12 acetaminophen, as it is associated with a dangerous disease known as Reyes syndrome.



When it�s More Than Growing Pains

Most growing pains are nothing to worry about and will resolve on their own, without any specific treatment. However, persistent pains can indicate an underlying illness or structural problem with the bones in the body.

Often referred to as pigeon toes, intoeing occurs when your child�s toes feet point towards one another when he is standing or walking. Intoeing is very common in young children, particularly in those between the ages of 2 and 6. Intoeing usually disappears on its own as children reach adolescence, however, it can sometimes require medical treatment, including bracing or surgery.

Unlike growing pains, which are probably due to overexertion, intoeing is associated with a structural problem in the body. Intoeing is caused by three major factors:


  • Metatarsus Adductus (Curved Foot): Sometimes, when babies are developing in the uterus, their feet become pointed inwards. As a result, they develop curved feet, or metatarsus adductus. This is a common cause of intoeing, but typically corrects itself over time or with physical therapy.
  • Internal Tibial Torsion: Occasionally, a twist can develop inside of a child�s tibia (leg bone). This twist causes the toes to point inwards when a child is standing or walking. Twisted tibias can correct themselves, however, surgery is sometimes needed in order to rotate the bone back into place.
  • Excess Femoral Anteversion: children who suffer from intoeing sometimes have a twisted femur (thigh bone), which causes their feet to point inwards. Again, a twisted femur can correct itself or may require bracing or surgery in order to rotate the bone back into place.


Knock Knees
Knock knees, or genu vaglum can sometimes cause pains similar to growing pains. However, knock knees are caused by structural problems within your child�s leg, and need to be monitored and corrected if necessary. Knock knees occurs when your child stands with her knees together but ankles apart. This gives the knees the appearance of bowing inwards. Most children have some degree of knock knees between the ages of 2 and 8. However, if these knock knees do not correct themselves, there may be an underlying structural problem or illness. Knock knees is associated with:


  • Rickets: Rickets is a disease caused by extreme Vitamin D deficiency. It prevents proper bone development, causing bones to become soft and flexible.
  • Skeletal Problems: If skeletal problems run in the family, it is possible that the bones in the legs are misshapen or malformed.


Bow Legs
Bow legs occur when the leg bones appear to bow outwards when you are standing still. When the ankles are placed together, the knees do not touch, but instead have a large gap between them. This gives the legs the appearance of being bowed. Bow legs typically occur at the knee and may require bracing or surgery in order to be corrected. Rarely, bow legs are associated with serious diseases, including:


  • Blount�s Disease: This disease is characterized by lack of development of the leg bone.
  • Rickets: If your child has a very poor diet, doesn�t eat healthy snacks, and is lacking in Vitamin D, he may have rickets. Rickets contributes to the weakening of the bones in the legs, giving them a bowed appearance.

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