Does your child suffer with leg aches?
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Does your child suffer with leg aches?

They could be growing pains.

Growing pains are best described as cramping and aching muscle pains and most commonly affect some pre-schoolers and then can recur in preteen years. They are felt in both legs and most often occur late in the afternoon or in the evening and in some instances may keep your child awake at night.

What causes growing pains?

Even though they are called “growing pains” there remains no evidence to link these pains with growth spurts.

Our current belief is that growing pains are likely to be simply aches due to high childhood activity that tire the muscles out. Common childhood activities such as running, climbing and jumping are very strenuous on the muscles and growing pains are noted to be more prevalent after a child has had a busy day of sports.

What are the symptoms?

Growing pain symptoms vary for each individual. While some children experience a lot of pain, others don’t and most children don’t have pain every day.

The pains can come and go and are felt in both legs. The areas affected especially are the front of the thighs, the calves and behind the knees.  Some children may have them for longer periods of months or in some cases, years. However most children outgrow their growing pains.

Most often the pains occur later in the day in the afternoon and evening as well as bedtime. Children experiencing growing pains may have such strong aches and cramps that they can even be woken from sleep.

Growing pains always disappear in the morning which leads to parents thinking their child is “faking”, but this isn’t the case and they will not interfere with them being active or playing sports.

How do we diagnose growing pains?

Your doctor will be able to diagnose growing pains through an examination and by taking a medical history. It’s important to rule out that there isn’t some other problem causing the pain and just assuming your child has growing pains, so ensure you visit your doctor to get a correct diagnosis.

Can growing pains be treated?

There are a number of treatment options for growing pains, dependent upon the level of pain your child is experiencing. Some basic things that will help ease your child’s discomfort include:

  • Massage your child’s legs
  • Have them stretch their leg muscles
  • Use a warm cloth or heat pad on the area of pain, but don’t use this during sleep

If you find these methods aren’t helping ease the pain, ask your doctor if it’s suitable to give your child pain relief. There are over the counter options available for children that can be recommended.

What symptoms are not associated with growing pains?

Growing pains are nearly always occur in both legs. If your child has pain in only one leg, it might be a symptom of a more serious condition.

They also affect muscles, not joints and will not cause limping.

Some other symptoms to be aware of that are not associated with growing pains are:

  • limping or difficulty walking
  • red, warm, painful, swollen joints
  • tiredness
  • weakness

If your child has these symptoms, you should arrange to see your doctor.

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