Pains in the legs of growing children are common
All children get aches and pains as they are growing and often they are easily labelled and dismissed as 'growing pains' when they may not be or they may be something quite serious. Just because a growing child has pains while growing does not mean that they are actually a ‘growing pain’.
The true syndrome of “growing pains” usually occurs around the ages of 4 to 5, but can occur up to age of around 12. It generally occurs behind the knee and is usually relieved by gentle massage. The pains only occur at night and do not happen during the day. If the pain occurs during the day, then it is not growing pains. The condition is generally self-limiting and treatment not usually needed. It can occur in up to 15-30% of children, so is quite common.
Even though the problem of a typical growing pains is benign, there are many different potentially very serious but rare conditions such as infections and bone tumours that can cause similar symptoms, so that is why every case need to be taken seriously and thoroughly investigated. There is often horror stories in the news media of children who had pains dismissed as growing pains, only to have one of these very rare problems with very serious consequences.
If the symptoms are causing distress and problemd with sleeping then some treatment is indicated. Most of the treatment is aimed a not dismissing the symptoms as just ‘growing pains’ and taking it seriously. The child and parents need to understand the self-limiting nature of the symptoms. Often just rubbing the painful area and sending the child back to bed is helpful. A hot pack could also be applied to the area to encourage the child back to bed and sleep. Stretching of the calf muscles before bed can sometimes help. NSAID’s or anti-inflammatory drugs can be tried at bedtime if the pains are waking the child from sleep