Growing Pains: Nothing to Worry About?

by Tracy Zaslow on 02/28/2013

So it’s bedtime and your 3rd grader starts complaining of leg pain. She’d been happily running, playing, dancing in ballet class and all around the house all day, but now she won’t go to bed because her legs hurt. What is it? Do you need to worry? What do you do now?

Good news!  Your daughter is officially normal and what she is complaining about most likely is consistent with “Growing Pains.”  So what is a “growing pain”? Growing pains are benign aches that occur in school-age kids after periods of physical activity. They affect nearly one-quarter to one-half of boys and girls, especially between the ages of 3-5 and 8-12 years old.

What Causes Growing Pains?

The truth is that medical science doesn’t know exactly why growing pains occur. It may simply represent the sore muscles that occur after a particularly active day. Or they may be linked to an individual’s lower pain threshold, although no clear links have been established to prove this theory.

What are the Symptoms of Growing Pains?

Kids will often describe growing pains as an ache or throbbing in the legs, specifically the thighs or calves. The symptoms usually arise in the late afternoon or evening hours, and then subside by morning.  This pain is not severe enough to wake children from sleep.  If they are complaining of joint pain, including the hip, knee or ankle, then it’s not just a growing pain, and should be evaluated further.

How do I Manage Growing Pains?

Massage is the number one way to make growing pains feel better. Not only does it make stiff muscles relax but also makes the child feel loved and supported. Apply a heating pad or warm towel, or soaking in a warm bath before bedtime can also help. Sometimes using an appropriate dose of acetaminophen will help if the pain is significant enough to keep them from falling asleep.

When is it Time to See the Doctor?

There are certain signs that may indicate the pains are more than just normal growing pains. Signs that require further evaluation by a doctor include:

1)      Pain in the joints

2)      Pain severe enough to limit participation in activities

3)      Pain that causes a child to limp

4)      Swelling

5)      Instances when an injury can be associated with the pain

6)      Pain that awakens the child from sleep

7)      Pain accompanied by other symptoms including redness, fever, rash, loss of appetite, weight loss, etc.


While growing pains can be a nuisance, they are rarely anything to worry about. So don’t let growing pains sideline your kids; staying active is an important part of growing up because it helps them develop healthy habits for life!

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Angela Plaugher March 8, 2013 at 5:02 PM

I will soon be a new mom and have also babysat my relatives for years and I know that I worry about everything that they say is wrong with them… from I don’t feel good to this hurts, it always worries me and I feel helpless because I don’t know what to do for them. I think that this article shares some really good info about a common problem that affects a lot of children. I also like the “When is it time to see the doctor” section. It helps to determine what is important and what may be able to be managed at home. I will use this in the future, I am sure.


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