Does your child complain of achy, throbbing legs, particularly at nighttime? Though any parent would be concerned when a child complains of pain, your child is most likely experiencing nothing more than “growing pains”—a common complaint affecting 25 to 40 percent of children.
What are growing pains?
Growing pains generally strike kids between the ages of three and five, and again at eight to 12 years of age. They are often described as an ache or throb in the front of the thighs, calves or behind the knees. They aren’t a true medical diagnosis, however, as there is no evidence that growing is actually painful. Growing pains are concentrated in the muscles and may be nothing more than symptoms of sore, tired muscles from a particularly active day.
Some children experience particularly intense pain that even wakes them at night, but growing pains are nothing to be concerned about—a child who suffers from a serious medical condition that causes pain would not like to be handled, as being touched can increase pain. A child with growing pains, however, will often be soothed with gentle massage, stretching, application of gentle heat or even cuddling with mom or dad. When needed, you may give your child acetaminophen or ibuprofen (but always check with your pediatrician first).
When should I be worried?
If your child is complaining of pain and you notice any of these other symptoms, make an appointment to see your child’s doctor.
• long-lasting or persistent pain
• pain in the joints
• pain associated with injury
• pain in the morning or throughout the day
• redness or swelling in one particular area
• unusual behavior
• loss of appetite
When your child complains of pain that you suspect to be growing pains, don’t discount your child’s concern. Instead, offer comfort by holding your child, massaging the painful area and helping your child get back to sleep. In most cases, he or she will wake up the next morning pain-free and ready for another busy, active day.