Childhood comes with growing pains – and we’re not talking about the lovable family sitcom. Today we get the low-down from our friends at The Spine & Sports Health Center in Hoboken about this childhood condition that is sometimes painful, but often common – and what to do and when to worry. Naturally, we start to worry when our little ones complain about achy pain in their legs. “Growing pains”, as they are called, can be alarming for many new parents. When is it time to visit a doctor? When is your child’s pain considered “abnormal”?
What are “growing pains”?
According to the Mayo Clinic, growing pains are often described as “an ache or throb in the legs – often in the front of the thighs, the calves or behind the knees. They tend to affect both legs and occur at night, and may even wake a child from sleep.” Sounds scary, right?
“The truth is that growing pains are actually quite normal,” said Alex Visco, M.D., Medical Director of The Spine & Sports Health Center. “They usually start in early childhood between the ages of 3 to 4 and then can occur again in young children ages 8 to12.” Dr. Visco explained that the pain often comes and goes, is worse in the late afternoon and evening hours, and usually disappears by morning.
What is confusing about the name “growing pains” is that there is not actually any evidence that growing is painful for a child. The most likely cause of the pain is overuse of muscles during the day. Playing outside, running, jumping, playing sports, and playing games with their friends are all examples of activities that can simply be tough on a child’s musculoskeletal system – similar to the way you may feel sore after a hard day of SoulCycle or Orange Theory.
What can you do to help, you’re wondering?
Dr. Visco recommends the same ways you would relieve your own sore muscles! Massaging your child’s legs, helping them stretch, and even applying a heated pad to soothe the achy muscles has shown to be helpful. Keep calm though – most children outgrow their “growing pains” (pun intended, we had to) within a few months to a few years.
Most importantly: when should you take your child to a physician?
“You should see a doctor if your child complains of ‘growing pains’ in only one leg,” said Dr. Visco. Remember that “growing pains” are pains of the muscles, so if your child is complaining about pain in their bones, joints, or spine, you should consult a professional to rule out other conditions. “Growing pains” do not cause fever or limping, either. If your child has suffered an injury, has any difficulty walking, is weak, tired, or lethargic, you should also seek a professional opinion. Finally, Dr. Visco cautions that persistent, extreme pain in a child is never considered normal – please seek a medical opinion immediately.
Rest easy, mamas. At the end of the day, “growing pains” are usually nothing to worry about and should not be the cause of stress or anxiety. As long as you’re informed and aware of this common childhood condition, you should have the tools you need to help your child feel more comfortable so they can get back to being happy and well.
About The Spine & Sports Health Center
The Spine & Sports Health Center is a medical practice specializing in the non-surgical treatment of spine and joint pain. Board-certified medical doctors provide individualized treatment plans for patients of all shapes and sizes, from young children to professional athletes. Through the use of interventional pain management, sports medicine, physical therapy and rehabilitation, chiropractic, and acupuncture, they are able to provide targeted relief for patients experiencing pain due to neck and back conditions or injuries, sciatica, sports injuries, headaches, nerve damage, herniated or bulging discs, and much more.
With locations in Hoboken, Jersey City, and Bayonne, they are always close by and eager to help. Call The Spine & Sports Health Center at (201) 533-9200 to make an appointment – no referral needed. And yes, they have weekend and after-work hours available (cue the coffee mug clinks).
Have your kids gone through growing pains? Let us know in the comments!
While this article is sponsored by The Spine & Sports Health Center, we’re happy to have such great insight into a common childhood condition from board-certified medical doctors.