Spinal stenosis is an abnormal narrowing of the spinal canal that can cause varying symptoms, depending on the location and severity of the narrowing. Symptoms may include numbness, weakness or pain in the limbs, as well as bladder, bowel or sexual dysfunction. Treatment can include physical therapy, medication and surgery.…
What are growing pains?
Growing pains are a form of recurring limb pain experienced by children. Despite the name, growing pains are not caused by growth. In fact, the cause of growing pains is still not known. Most often, the pain is felt in the legs, particularly in the thighs, calves and the backs of the knees.
Growing pains occur in children 3-14 years of age.  In a few children, growing pains occur in later teen years as well. Estimates of the percentage of children who experience growing pains range from 2.6-49.4% [ 2] , which serves to illustrate how loose the definition of this condition can be.
It is not known what causes growing pains. They are not caused by growth (as was originally suggested); other periods of rapid growth, such as infancy or adolescence, are not accompanied by growing pains.
Factors that may be influencing growing pains include:
- Overuse of limbs, which may be caused by a particularly active day of running, jumping and climbing;
- A low pain threshold;
- Poor posture;
- Low bone strength, and;
- Emotional stress.
Risk factors for growing pains include:
- Age - children aged 4-12 years of age;
- Flat feet, and;
- Unusually flexible joints, also known as joint hypermobility or being 'double-jointed'.
Growing pains are more common among children who suffer from migraines.
Signs and symptoms
- Appear in children aged 3-14 years of age, or, less commonly, in the later teen years;
- Usually affect the legs, particularly the thighs, calves and the backs of the knees, although they can appear in the arms, shoulders and back as well;
- Affect both legs - the pain does not appear only in one leg at a time;
- Are most common in the evening and at night, and are usually gone by morning;
- Are more common after a particularly active day;
- Do not cause limping or walking difficulties, and;
- Are not caused or accompanied by inflammation, swelling, stiffness, fever or other symptoms.
For most children, growing pains will only come once every few days, weeks or even months. A small minority of children experience growing pains nightly.
Although growing pains can sometimes be severe, and at times alarming for children and parents, they do not cause any permanent damage, and usually do not interfere with a child's normal activities.
Methods for diagnosis
Your doctor will diagnose growing pains by excluding other possible causes of limb pain, such as arthritis, hip dysplasia, sprains and fractures.
Types of treatment
There is no cure for growing pains - they eventually go away by themselves. Leg massages and applying warmth can provide some relief from the aching. Comfort and reassure your child if they are feeling anxious or frightened.
Pain-relief medications such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen can be used. In severe cases, your doctor may suggest using stronger pain-relief medications. Calcium or vitamin D supplements have not been shown to relieve growing pains.
There is some evidence that physical therapy can help with growing pains, if followed regularly. Another option is to try the use of shoe inserts.
Growing pains usually go away on their own after a period of a few months to 1-2 years.
- Hashkes P.J. and Lowe R.M. (2008) Growing pains: a noninflammatory pain syndrome of early childhood. Nature Clinical Practice Rheumatology 4:542-549.
- Goodyear-Smith F. and Arroll B. (2006) Growing pains. British Medical Journal 333:456–457.
- Goodyear-Smith F. & Arroll B. (2006). Growing pains. BMJ: British Medical Journal 333: 456457.
- Growing pains. (-a). Accessed 23 September 2014 from http://www.uptodate.com/contents/growing-pains?source=search_result&search=growing+pains&selectedTitle=1%7E6
- Growing pains. (-b). Better Health Channel. Accessed 23 September 2014 from http://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcarticles.nsf/pages/Growing_pains
- Harel L. (2010). Growing pains: myth or reality. Pediatric endocrinology reviews: PER 8: 7678.
- Hashkes P.J. & Lowe R.M. (2008). Growing pains: a noninflammatory pain syndrome of early childhood. Nature Clinical Practice Rheumatology 4: 542+.
- Leung A.K.C. & Robson W.L.M. (1991). Growing Pains. Canadian Family Physician 37: 14631467.
- Moyer M.W. (2013 August 2). Are Growing Pains Real? Slate. Accessed from http://www.slate.com/articles/double_x/the_kids/2013/08/growing_pains_in_kids_are_they_real_what_causes_them_and_is_there_any_treatment.html
- Pavone V. Lionetti E. Gargano V. et al. (2011). Growing pains: a study of 30 cases and a review of the literature. Journal of Pediatric Orthopedics 31: 606609.
- Peake S.T. Mason J.C. Mittal T. et al. (2008). Growing painsand a heart attack. The Lancet 372: 600.
- Uziel Y. & Hashkes P.J. (2008). [Growing pains in children]. Harefuah 147: 809811 836.
- Wong M.W. Williamson B.D. Qiu W. et al. (2014). Growing pains and periodic limb movements of sleep in children. Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health 50: 455460.
FAQ Frequently asked questions
What are growing pains?
Growing pains are a form of recurring limb pain experienced by children. Their cause is not known.
What are the characteristics of growing pains?
Growing pains appear in children aged 3 to 14 years of age, less commonly in later teen years. They usually affect the legs (thighs, calves and the backs of the knees) but can appear in the arms, shoulders and back as well. They are most …
What causes growing pains?
It is not clear what causes growing pains. They are not, as the name mistakenly suggests, caused by growth.
Who gets growing pains?
Children between the ages of 3 to 14 are the most affected by growing pains.
How are growing pains diagnosed?
Your doctor will diagnose growing pains by excluding other possible causes of limb pain.
How are growing pains treated?
There is no effective treatment or cure for growing pains. Leg massages and heat packs can help with the pain. Pain-relief medications such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen can be used.
What can be done at home to treat growing pains?
Leg massages and applying warmth can provide some relief from growing pains. Comfort and reassure your child if they are feeling anxious or frightened.
Will growing pains keep coming back?
Most children experience an attack of growing pains intermittently every few days, weeks or even months. After a year or two, the attacks gradually stop.