Growing pains are a family common occurrence in a
pediatric population. These discomforts are all too familiar to the concerned mother or
father who has awoke in the middle of the night to the sound of a crying child. Rushing to
the bedside, the parent finds the child holding their leg in obvious pain. Remarkably, a
gentle massage, some hugs, and a few words of reassurance are all that is needed to soothe
the pain. The recovery is usually complete by dawn, and the parents are frequently
astounded by the sight of their healthy child bouncing out the door at full speed, pain
free, to catch the school bus.
Medical science has been unable to explain the
exact cause of this malady. Although there is no firm evidence to indicate that growing
bones cause pain, growth discomfort affects about 20% of all children during the period of
extremely rapid bone build up. While the basis of the aches is still unknown, the pain
that children experience is very real, causing discomfort for children and sleepless
nights and worry for their parents. The most likely cause for "growing pains" is
muscle fatigue. Active children run, jump, climb, and exert their muscles in a multitude
of different ways in the course of a busy day at school and at play. At days end, tired,
exhausted, stretched out and stressed out, muscles cry for relief, and the child vocalizes
these pains loud and clear!
Girls seem to suffer more frequently with these
types of pains than boys. While growing pains occur at any age, children seem to
experience them in two age groups: from 3 to 9 years, and then again in early adolescence.
They happen most frequently at night. Interestingly, these children also complain more
frequently of headaches and stomaches during the day.
The nonspecific, generalized nature of growing
pains may be a feature of many other childhood diseases. In fact, "growing
pains" is what many physicians consider to be a ""diagnosis of
exclusion"; in other words, "different conditions should be ruled out as a
diagnostic possibility before this one can be made. Most often, a thorough history and
physical examination by your child’s doctor is sufficient to accomplish this; in
other instances, blood tests and x-ray studies may be required.
The notable features of growing pains includes:
* Frequency— -Intermittent; Some children get
the pains every night, others once a week or so, and some get them only once in a while.
The pains tend to occur after a child has had a particularly active day.
* Intensity—- Generally mild; however, a few
children complain of severe pain that provokes crying. The pain can be brief or it can
last for an hour, or longer.
* Location -In the muscles and not in the joints.
Most children report that the pain is in front of their thighs, in the calves, or behind
the knee. Joints affected by other more serious diseases appear swollen,red, tender, and
warm. The "growing pains" joint looks quite normal.
* Onset—-Usually in late afternoon or evening
before going to bed. Occasionally the pain will make a child wake up at night.
* Other symptoms- The pain may be accompanied by
restlessness, but very rarely any signs such as tenderness, redness, swelling. or fever.
The symptom pediatricians find most useful in
making a diagnosis of "growing pains" is how the child responds to being handled
while in pain. Children who have pain from a serious medical disease do not like to be
touched because any movement tends to increase the pain. Children with "growing
pains" respond differently; they like to have their legs massaged and feel better
when they are held and cuddled.
Your child’’s physician should be
notified if any of the following occur with your child’s pain: Persistent pain,
swelling, or redness in one particular area or joint, fever, limping, unusual rashes, loss
of appetite, weakness, lethargy, or uncharacteristic behavior. These signs generally do
not accompany "growing pains and may be an indication of a more serious disorder.
Growing pains may seem harmless enough from afar, but to a child,
they are very distressing .Since the child seems better and is free of pain in the
morning, parents sometimes suspect that the child is faking the symptom. This is usually
not the case —the pain is quite real and it is at these times that they need their
parents reassurance and support more than ever! If you don’’t believe me, just
call your parents! . This often provides the interesting news that you too suffered from
this common disorder of developing children--growing pains!