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Growing Pains

By Bjarne Lühr Hansen PhD, MD and Philipp Skafte-Holm MD, Mentor Institute

Many children and parents have experienced being bothered by growing pains. Typically the child wakes up crying during the night and complains about pains in both legs. A little massage, warmth or painkilling medicine soothes the pain. The next morning the child is as fit as a fiddle and moves around normally.

Many parents have experienced that their child wakes up crying in the middle of the night because of pains in the legs. This is what happens when you suffer from growing pains. The cause of growing pains is unknown. Many probably imagine that the pains are caused by the legs actually growing. This is luckily not the case. If the child was supposed to feel pain when it grew, childhood would be a terrible time with lots of pain – after all, a child grows all the time.

Next after headaches, growing pains are the most common cause of pain with healthy children. One child in every fifth is struck with growing pains. With most children, growing pains begins in the age of four or five years old and the condition disappears again when the child becomes around ten years old. Growing pains are harmless and the child develops completely normally.

Typically growing pains appear with a healthy and normal child in the middle of the night – most often after midnight. The child wakes up crying and complains about pains in both legs. The pain last 10-15 minutes and is described as coming from deep within the legs – either in knees, shins or ankles. After some time the child falls asleep again. The next morning the child can walk and run as it usually does.

If the child has had growing pains once it will most likely have them several times over some years. Usually the child has three to four monthly fits of growing pains over a couple of years. It is common for the child to feel pain several nights in a row.

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Ordinary painkillers (paracetamol) can help the child.

What can you do?

With most children the pain can be eased by ’rubbing’ the leg or massage the area from which the pain comes from. A hot towel around the legs can also soothe the pain.

Contact the doctor tomorrow

If the child limps when walking. If the leg is swollen and hot.

Contact the doctor immediately

If the leg is red and the child has a fever.