Growing pains are common in children between the ages of 3 and 5 years old and adolescents between the ages of 8 and 12 years old. While the cause of growing pains is unknown, they can often be relieved through a combination of massaging, application of heat wraps, and Tylenol.
Causes and Symptoms of Growing Pains
While the cause of growing pains is currently unknown, they typically occur in two periods during childhood: among 3 to 5 year olds and later in 8 to 12 year olds. Approximately 25% to 40% of children will experience growing pains at some time; however, the frequency that they experience them is variable and they typically do not occur every day. The most likely cause of growing pains is the stress placed on the legs while running, jumping, climbing and playing, as many parents notice a correlation between the worsening of growing pains after an especially active day.
Characteristically, growing pains occur shortly before or after the child falls asleep, often causing the child to awaken from sleep complaining of leg pain that is throbbing or aching in one or both legs. Growing pains typically affect the muscles of the legs and not the joints. If the joints are affected, a different diagnosis will often be considered.
Diagnosing Growing Pains
One symptom that doctors find helpful in diagnosing growing pains is the child’s response to touch while in pain. Children who have pain from a serious medical problem don't like to be handled because movement tends to increase the pain. However, children with growing pains typically respond positively, as they feel better when they are held, massaged, and cuddled when symptoms are present.
Growing pains are what doctors call a “diagnosis of exclusion”, meaning that other conditions should be ruled out before a diagnosis of growing pains is made. A thorough history and physical examination by the doctor will usually accomplish this; however, in rare instances blood tests and X-ray studies may be required before a final diagnosis of growing pains is made.
Treating Growing Pains
Children suffering from growing pains will often find relief from pain symptoms through the use of one or more of the following treatments:
- Massaging the aching area
- Stretching of the legs
- Placing a heating pad on the throbbing area
- Administering ibuprofen or acetaminophen
Children who have growing pains will typically feel better in the morning. For most patients, growing pains will typically cease completely once the patient reach their teens.
Growing Pains in Tampa-St. Petersburg, Florida
With five board-certified pediatric surgeons specializing in orthopaedics and scoliosis, the Children’s Orthopaedic and Scoliosis Surgery Associates team provides the highest level of comprehensive care to patients in the Tampa, Florida area. To learn more about Children’s Orthopaedic’s specialties, please schedule an appointment at one of our four area Tampa-St.Petersburg locations.