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Is Your Child Suffering From Growing Pains? What They Are and How to Help

Blog Is Your Child Suffering From Growing Pains? What They Are and How to Help

Growing pains are actually not caused by fast growth. “They are more likely to be caused by muscle aches from days of high, intense activity,” explains Dr. Danielle Wiese.


Occasional aches and pains are a natural part of childhood. “But growing pains are recurrent muscle aches that generally occur in the lower legs of children,” says Tobe Coleman, MD, hospitalist at Indiana University Health. “The cause of the pain is unknown but the condition is generally benign.”

In fact, growing pains are actually not caused by fast growth. “They are more likely to be caused by muscle aches from days of high, intense activity,” explains Danielle Wiese, M.D., pediatrician for Riley Children’s Health. “The complaints are more likely to happen at night, once the child has slowed down for the day and is undistracted enough to notice the achiness.”

How common are growing pains?

While anecdotally, many parents complain about growing pains, it’s hard to say just how many kids it affects. “It usually affects kids who are between the ages of 2 and 12 and statistically the relevance ranges from 4 to 37 percent of children,” says Dr. Coleman.

What are the signs?

“It usually involves pain or achiness in both legs and is frequently limited to the thigh, shin or calf,” says Dr. Coleman. “The pain may cause your child to wake up in the middle of the night, but it often resolves with heat, massage or a dose of Tylenol or Ibuprofen.” You can also try a warm bath or some simple stretches. It usually disappears in the morning, says Dr. Coleman, and should not interfere with your child's ability to be active during the day.

When should you take your child to the doctor?

“If there is severe pain or the pain is limited to one leg or there’s interference of physical activity, pain during the day, or any systemic symptoms such as fever, rash, weight loss or fatigue,” says Dr. Coleman. “If your child is having joint pain, redness, swelling, or warmth of any joints, you should also call the doctor.”

Additionally, Dr. Wiese says you should watch your child to see if he’s limping or having problems walking, or if there were any known injuries before the pain started.

-- By Judy Koutsky 

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