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Taking the Pain Out of Growing Pains

by Sue Hubbard, M.D.

Growing pains are a frequent complaint in children. Although pediatricians don’t fully understand the etiology of growing pains, their presentation is fairly typical. Growing pains usually present in children around the age of four or five and last through early elementary school. These pains are usually located in the calves of the legs, behind the knees and often occur in the middle of the night.

Children describe these pains as tightening and throbbing of the muscles. I can still remember waking up in the middle of the night with these pains (I’m not divulging how long ago that was) and having my father come in to rub my legs, and then put a heating pad on my legs. I don’t think we had Tylenol or Advil at that time. The thing that always helped the most was massage, and then they would finally go away and everyone got to go back to sleep.

Parents often note that growing pains occur more frequently after their child has been extremely active. Why some children have pains recurrently while others never complain is not understand. Besides complaining of leg pain, again usually at night, there are no other related symptoms such as fever, limping, rash, or joint swelling. Your child should play normally and not be limited in their activity due to growing pains. Continue to use massage; heat and pain relievers as necessary and these growing pains do go away over time.

That’s your daily dose, we’ll chat again tomorrow.

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