What are Growing Pains?

Growing pains is the term often used to describe otherwise unexplained pains in children. These pains tend to present in the legs, either the back of the calves or shins, but occasionally will be felt in the back or front of the thigh or behind the knee.

They usually appear in the late afternoon, evening, just before or in bed or after periods of intense activity. They may be so severe that the child wakens at night and frequently cries with the pain. The pains may also be present on a long walk, and a young child may look to get into a buggy or be carried, while an older child will lag behind and dislike walking. The pains will usually be gone in the morning.

Children of any age can experience these pains which may be worse at certain times, they may settle for months and then reappear.

In the absence of an actual injury such as a knock or fall, and if any of the symptoms below are not present these pains are frequently thought, by the medical profession, to be due to the child going through a rapid growth spurt,and the parents are frequently told that the child will grow out of them. 

If any of these symptoms are present the child should have further investigations with their GP.

  • fever or high temperature
  • loss of appetite or weight loss
  • rash or red, warm, painful or swollen joints
  • lethargy, tiredness, weakness

If these symptoms are not present, then the child should be brought to a chartered physiotherapist for thorough examination. We in Kilkenny Physio clinic believe that they are an indication that the child is not performing optimally. They may also indicate that the biomechanics, or tracking is off.

What causes Growing Pains?

Contrary to popular belief there is actually no sound evidence to suggest that these “growing pains” are in any way linked to a growth spurt.

In Kilkenny Physiotherapy & Sports Injury Clinic we believe that such pains have a physical cause, and while the child may grow out of the pain, they may not grow out of the cause, and the symptoms, or other associated issues may return.

In our clinic we will do a detailed biomechanical assessment of the child including

  • An in depth history of their birth and early development
  • A functional assessment of their movements
  • Flexibility
  • Strength
  • Gait
  • foot mechanics

From this, we will determine what biomechanical deviations within the child, what activities or lack of, or what events in their early development may have predisposed to this. We will link our findings in a logical strategic manner to determine what caused what, and then we will work back to provide a comprehensive home exercise programme to address the problems.

For example if a child has flat feet, when they walk long distances or run, their calf muscle will have to overwork to align the foot in a functional position to walk and run. This over working of the muscle may result in myofascial trigger points in the muscle and cause pain in the muscle when the child goes to bed that night. There may also be a build up of chemicals in the muscles, the most commonly known of these is Lactic Acid.

Can you treat growing pains?

Many professions and therapists do not offer treatment for growing pains, and just reassure the parent that the child will grow out of them. In Kilkenny Physiotherapy & Sports Injury clinic, we take an active approach to the treatment of growing pains. We turn the child into an athlete showing them how to alleviate their pain. We teach the child how to do exercises to address their specific problem.

The treatments usually advocated for growing pains include

  • hamstring stretchingMassaging the legs.
  • Stretching the leg muscles.
  • Hot packs.
  • Over-the-counter pain medicine, (not aspirin),

In our clinic we believe the only way to treat growing pains is to get to the root of the problem with a detailed assessment and then address each of the biomechanical issues _KKP4017

  • Massage, muscles relaxation modalities, other muscle release techniques
  • Stretch or release tight muscles including foam rolling
  • Strengthen weak muscles in calves, around hips and core muscles
  • Foot muscle strengthening
  • Core strenthening classes
  • Correct allignment – Provide orthotics if required
  • Re-educate gait and run to become more efficient

Growing pains may be associated with other children‘s complaints.