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Growing pains

Non-specific leg pains which affects otherwise healthy children. Intermittent pains that affect leg muscles (not joints) of both legs and occurs at night.

Growing pains have been discussed clinically and researched over the years by many, and still some dispute its existence.

Clinically growing pains affect children of all ages and usually involve both limbs with intermittent symptoms.

Common areas affected are the anterior thigh, calf and posterior knee, often symptoms appear late evening and night and are often relieved by massage.

The cause of growing pains

The aetiology of growing pains remains elusive with 3 main theories upheld:

  • Fatigue theory – Caused by overuse of growing muscles in active children.
  • Psychological or emotional theory – includes abdominal pains and headaches into the equation theorising that some children’s pain is emotionally based.
  • Other theories – There has been a link suggested between foot posture and growing pains. Atar et al 1992 theorised that there was a correlation between heavier children and growing pain.  Lowered pain threshold in some children along with genetic occurrence in families has also been theorised.

Treatments

Managing children with growing pains is primarily evidence based:

  1. Massage
  2. Muscle stretching
  3. Heat
  4. Paracetamol
  5. Vitamin C, magnesium supplements and zinc

If you feel your child is suffering from growing pains it is always best to get a diagnosis.  Other significant issues could be missed if they are not checked by a podiatrist.

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