When should we worry and what should we do?
As a pediatrician, I have heard parents attribute dozens of different issues to growing pains. Pediatricians just shake their heads.
I have also heard of pediatricians writing off child’s aches and pains as growing pains when there was something more significant going on.
- Are located in the legs (most commonly) and sometimes the arms
- Occur at night and occasionally with activity
- Occur between 3-6 years of age and again at 8-12 years
- Concentrated in the muscles, not the joints
Growing pains are so common that your child will likely experience them at some point. We do not know for sure what causes them but it’s pretty clear that it’s not from the growth of bones. Some have suggested it might be soreness from the increased activity of these age group but no one really knows for sure.
For most kids there is no reason to worry as it is a temporary annoyance that the child will eventually outgrow without treatment.
So, when should we be concerned?
- There is associated swelling or redness
- There is associated fever
- There is a limp
- The pain is consistent throughout the day
Most pain in the arms and legs will be growing pains in this age group but if these are present, talk with your doctor. More workup (such as labs or xrays) or a referral to a specialist might be in order.
What can you do with your child who has growing pains?
Massage the area. A little time with mommy or daddy and a simple massage of the muscles is usually enough to calm the child down and help them go back to sleep.
Tell them that everything is ok. Often the parents are scared and anxious and the child can feel this. If you tell them repeatedly not to worry, maybe you will start to believe it too.
If all else fails, a small dose of ibuprofen is a good last line of defense. If this does not work, it’s time to go see your doctor.
Justin Smith, M.D. is a general pediatrician in Lewisville, the Medical Advisor for Digital Health for Cook Children’s, the father of three young children (all 5 and under) and generally very tired. You can find him on Facebook: The Doc Smitty and Twitter: @TheDocSmitty. He blogs regularly on Cook Children’s hospital newsroom: checkupnewsroom.com/thedocsmitty.