Growing Pains

What are they?

Growing pains is a general term which describes pain experienced by some children as part of their normal growth. Around 15-30 percent of children experience growing pains, most commonly felt as pain in the front thigh muscles, in the calves and behind the knees.

Pain is usually experienced in the late afternoon or just before bed at night. The pain may come and go from day to day, but is often worse after a day when the child has been active. While most pain is mild, some pain may be of sufficient strength to wake a sleeping child. When no pain is felt, the child is active and feels no physical limitations.

Who gets it?

There are no common risk factors for growing pains. They occur in children who are generally in good health otherwise

What are the associations?

There are no known associations with other conditions. The normal diagnosis is exclusion based and relies primarily on the medical history of the child combined with a full physical examination, to confirm that the pain is not linked with any other causes.

What is the natural history?

The general understanding of growing pains are that they are the result of fatigue and muscle strain which is connected to natural bone and muscle changes that occur with children’s growth. When the growth stops, so too do the growing pains.

How is it treated?

In general, children experiencing growing pains should be treated with symptomatic relief and emotional reassurance. Options for home treatment include the application of gentle heat (either as a heat pack or a warm bath), the use of gentle massage techniques and muscle stretches

In some cases, it may become necessary to give the child paracetamol or ibuprofen, however please ensure that this is done as directed by your doctor or pharmacist.

When should I contact my GP?

If your child displays any of the following symptoms along with pain, you should contact your general practitioner (GP) for further advice:

  • persistent pain, morning pain or swelling or redness in one particular area or joint
  • development of a limp
  • lethargy, tiredness or weakness
  • fever or malaise
  • loss of appetite