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Knowing the difference between growing pains or another medical condition can be a bit difficult, and sometimes you need to consult a doctor to find out what the cause of your child’s pain is.

Many children complain about having pain in their legs, often due to physical exertion. But sometimes there is no logical cause for the pain, such as activity or accidental injury, and many doctors will call them growing pains. But are they a real condition or is it just a name given to unexplained pain?

What Is The Definition of Growing Pains?

Pain can occur in the front of the thighs, the back of the knees or in the calf muscles, and unlike an injury, the pain can come and go instead of being constant. It can even wake a child up during the night, the pain is so intense. There are many theories about what causes this pain, such as a psychological problem or a low threshold to pain, but there has been no definitive proof that growth actually can cause pain.

Some doctors prefer to call this condition a recurrent night time limb pain, rather than growing pains.  It is still a non-specific condition of no known cause, and it can be quite distressing for both the child and the parent. It generally only occurs at night, or in the late evening, and affects both legs, so if your child is complaining of leg pain during the day, it is likely to be due to another cause.

Symptoms of Growing Pains

Growing pains does not affect walking or standing, so there should be no limp or difficulty moving. The pain should be gone by morning, and your child should be able to go about their usual daily activities without any problem.

  • Pain in both legs at the same time
  • Pain in thighs, back of knees, calves, shins or ankles
  • Night-time or evening occurrence

Risk Factors

Children who are of preschool or school age are usually affected by growing pains, rather than older children or teenagers. Girls are more likely to suffer from these pains rather than boys, and they typically occur after a busy day of activity. Children with hypermobile joints, meaning their joints are more flexible and loose, are more likely to suffer from growing pains. Interestingly, although there is no known genetic link, growing pains often runs in families. The reason behind this is a mystery, but it could be due to an inherited hypermobility of the joints.

When to Be Concerned

Knowing the difference between growing pains or another medical condition can be a bit difficult, and sometimes you need to consult a doctor to find out what the cause of your child’s pain is. Symptoms to watch out for are:

  • Pain that is constant, lasting more than one day
  • Persistent pain this is still there in the morning
  • Pain that is severe, preventing your child from normal daily activities
  • An associated injury
  • Pain in the actual joints
  • Fever
  • Swelling, rash, tenderness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fatigue or weakness
  • Limping
  • Pain in other parts of the body
  • Pain in only one leg
  • Weight loss

If any of these symptoms are present, you need to consult with your doctor and have your child assessed. They may need to rule out any other underlying illnesses that may be causing the pain. Conditions that will need to be ruled out include vitamin D deficiency, juvenile arthritis or possibly even leukemia.

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