Thumbnail image of: Pain Diary: Illustration

Growing Pains

What are growing pains?

Growing pains are harmless intermittent pains that occur in the leg muscles. They occur in 10 to 20% of children and usually start between ages 4 and 6,

What is the cause?

Since they occur late in the day, they are probably due to running and playing hard, not due to any known injury. There is no evidence that they are caused by growth, and they don’t occur during a period of rapid growth. However, they have been called growing pains for over 100 years and no better term has come along to replace it.

What are the symptoms?

  • Mild to moderate pains that occur in the thigh or calf muscles (not in the joints)
  • The pain usually occurs on both sides
  • The pain usually lasts 10 to 30 minutes

How are growing pains diagnosed?

The physical exam is normal. Lab tests and X-ray studies are not helpful, A clinical diagnosis is based upon the typical pain pattern and the absence of any joint swelling, limited range of motion, limping or fever.

How are growing pains treated?

Usually the pains are mild, don’t last long and no treatment is necessary. Massage of the sore muscles can help the pain go away. Give acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen if the pain lasts more than 30 minutes.

How long will they last?

Growing pains come and go for several years. They are rarely seen after 10 years of age.

How can I prevent them?

Research has shown that daily stretching exercises can prevent most growing pains. Have someone teach you how to stretch the quads, hamstrings, and calf muscles. Stretch each muscle several times late in the day, before the time that the growing pains usually occur.

When should I call my child’s healthcare provider?

Call during office hours if:

  • Joint pain, joint swelling, joint stiffness or limping occurs
  • You have other questions or concerns
Written by Barton D. Schmitt, MD, author of “My Child Is Sick,” American Academy of Pediatrics Books.
Pediatric Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2011-06-07
Last reviewed: 2014-06-10
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 Barton D. Schmitt, MD. All rights reserved.

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