Growing pains in children have a very specific definition
All kids get aches and pains since they are growing and often they may be conveniently classed growing pains when they may not be or they might be something quite serious. Just because a growing child has symptoms while growing does not always mean that they are can be a ‘growing pain’.
The actual syndrome of Growing Pains typically occurs about the ages of 4 to 5, but can happen up to age of about twelve. This commonly happens behind the knee and is commonly reduced by mild rubbing. The symptoms only occur during the night and do not happen in the daytime. If the symptoms happen through the day, then it is not necessarily growing pains. The disorder is frequently self-limiting and treatment is not generally required. It can occur in around 15-30% of children, so is quite common.
Although the condition of a typical growing pains is harmless, there are several possibly very serious but uncommon conditions including infections and bone tumours that can give similar symptoms, so that is why every growing pain should be taken seriously and meticulously looked at. There are occasionally horror reports in the news media of children that had symptoms dismissed as growing pains, only to have one of these very rare problems with extremely serious outcomes.
In the event the symptoms are causing distress and issues with sleeping then some treatment is indicated. Most of the treatment is aimed at not ignoring the symptoms as merely ‘growing pains’ and taking it seriously. The child and parents need to understand the self-limiting character of the symptoms. Often just massaging the painful area and sending the kid back to bed is useful. A hot pack may be put on the location to motivate the child back to bed and sleep. Stretches of the calf muscles when it is bedtime can sometimes help. NSAID’s or anti-inflammatory drugs may be tried at bedtime if the symptoms are waking up the kid from sleep.