Are my child’s growing pains normal?

Children's Health

by Arti Lal, MD

Sep 11, 2019

Growing up can be hard work and it is sometimes tough on your body. Growing pains are commonly seen in preschool and school-aged kids, and affect about 10 to 40 percent of children.

Many people consider these pains to be no big deal — just a part of growing up, right? But how do you know if the pain your child feels is something more serious than common growing pains?

What are growing pains?

Growing pains are deep pains that are usually bilateral, meaning they affect both sides of your body. The pain is primarily in a child’s lower extremities, often the thigh or calf, and may or may not involve the upper extremities. Growing pains are believed to be related either to the stretching of the bones’ thick covering or overuse of muscles during the day.

One of the telltale signs of growing pains is pain at night, often occurring after your child has gone to bed.

Children are busy-bodies and always on the move. If their day is filled with running and jumping, it can trigger growing pains that may feel worse than normal. Sometimes, a child may cry due to the pain or complain of their stomach hurting as well.

One of the telltale signs of growing pains is pain at night, often occurring after your child has gone to bed. This is the time when the body is resting and growing, and usually the time when a child will complain of pain.

Related: Is your child getting enough sleep at night?

How to relieve growing pains

It’s never easy to see your child in pain, but don’t worry. As a parent, there are some ways you can help:

  • Give painkillers for pain relief
  • Apply heat
  • Help stretch the muscles around the hurt area
  • Massage the area to reduce pain

If that doesn’t do the trick, it may be something more serious. However, if the pains go away in the morning, it is likely they are just growing pains. You may want to invest in some new pants, since your child will soon sprout and outgrow his or her current pair!

Related: How to help your child establish healthy habits

But if your child is limping or feeling pain in the morning that decreases with movement, weakness, or unusual tiredness, growing pains may not be to blame. Any instance of pain is worth a visit to the doctor. A physical examination and review of your child’s pain history will help your doctor determine if it is growing pains.

Worried about your child’s pain? Find a doctor today.

About the Author

Arti Lal, MD, FAAP, is a pediatrician on the medical staff at Baylor Scott & White Clinic – Austin Northwest. She specializes in caring for the mental health of children and teens. Schedule an appointment with Dr. Lal today.

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