Growing Pains: When “growing up” hurts

Growing Pains: When "growing up" hurts

Pain during growth is often not taken seriously in preschool and school children. But they are not imaginary, only difficult to recognize. Attacks usually begin in the evening when the child is sleeping. She cries and claims pain in her knees, ankles, or arms for about 10 to 15 minutes. This phase lasts about two weeks. Then there is peace again for half a year with the “Children’s Theatre”. Is this a scam or a severe problem?

Diagnosis requires experience

Many textbooks do not mention growing pains or devote only a few lines to the condition. The problem is not uncommon. A quarter to half of all children between the ages of five and ten suffer from it occasionally, often two to three times a year for a few weeks.

The only characteristic of growing pains is the pain, especially in the arms and legs, sometimes also in the feet, alternately on the left and right. There is no redness, swelling, rash or fever. Laboratory tests remain negative. Most attacks are in the evening or at night, rarely during the day. The diagnosis is also difficult to make because young patients can only rarely provide reliable information about the pain intensity and the location of the pain.


Causes still unclear

The cause of the pain during growth could be the stretching of the tendons and ligaments. “The tendons and ligaments don’t grow as quickly when the body stretches at night and grows by 0.2 millimetres with a thrust,” says Dr Medical Wolfgang Sohn, a general practitioner from Schwalmtal. Heat is recommended as therapy through massage, moor ointments or infrared radiation.

If it is awful, painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen can also be used. “The support of the parents is also critical,” advises Sohn. Take the child’s complaints seriously. Comfort them, read a story or sing together because distraction lessens the pain.

Typical signs of growing pains

  • It usually occurs in infancy, sometimes into adolescence.
  • It occurs in the evening or at night, often after extensive exercise during the day, but never during physical exertion.
  • The pain cannot be localized precisely; it mainly affects the long tubular bones (e.g. lower legs or thighs), rarely the joints.
  • The pain wanders or changes sides.
  • The duration of pain varies between a few minutes and an hour.


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