What are “Growing Pains”, and does my child have them?

Lifespan Osteopathy Essendon / Paediatric Osteopathy  / What are “Growing Pains”, and does my child have them?

What are “Growing Pains”, and does my child have them?

Aside from being a cheesy 80’s sitcom, “growing pains” are the most common form of episodic musculoskeletal pain in childhood.  


But what exactly are they?


Typically, the pain involved in “growing pains” is:


  • Not over a joint
  • On both sides of the body, e.g. in both legs
  • Most common in the shins, calves, thighs or behind the knee
  • Most commonly present at night, and disappears during the day
  • Anywhere from mild to severe
  • Possibly more common on days of increased activity


As many as half of all children will experience growing pains, usually between the ages of 3 and 12.


There is not typically any redness or swelling involved in growing pains, and there can be long periods of time (days to months) where the child can be pain-free.  


The actual cause of growing pains is unknown.  


What seems to be pretty clear from the evidence though, is that growing pains have been named incorrectly, because they don’t seem to have a lot to do with growth spurts. 


However, the other proposed name of “recurrent limb pain in childhood” just doesn’t quite have the same ring to it, does it?


Theories exist as to whether children who suffer from growing pains have a reduced pain threshold, or decreased bone density, compared to those who don’t suffer them.  However, these are not conclusive.  


Another theory suggests that during these ‘attacks’, vascular changes, similar to those that occur during a migraine, are taking place.  Again, however, the evidence for this theory is weak.  


In the absence of symptoms such as limping, loss of mobility, or other physical signs of systemic illness, “growing pains” don’t usually require any special tests or further investigations.  


Once the diagnosis of growing pains is made, some families find it reassuring to know that the condition is usually self-limiting.  Massage and pain-relief, given as required, can be helpful.  


Since the actual cause of growing pains is unknown, it cannot be definitively said that Osteopathy will always be helpful.


However, if your child is suffering from pain that fits the description above, an assessment by one of our Osteopaths may help to determine if there are any tight muscles or joint restrictions in the  hips, knees, ankle or lower back that may be contributing to their pain.  


We can also provide advice about stretching techniques for your child, which may be of particular assistance if they tend to suffer these pains on days when they’ve been particularly active. 


If you’d like to help your child with their pain, why not give us a call on (03) 9372 7714 or book online today, to see if we can help your child?