Your 8-year-old son wakes up crying in the night complaining that his legs are throbbing
Your 8-year-old son wakes up crying in the night complaining that his legs are throbbing. You rub them and soothe him as much as you can, but you're uncertain about whether to give him any medication or take him to the doctor.
Sound familiar? Your child is probably experiencing growing pains
, a normal occurrence in about 25% to 40% of children. They generally
strike during two periods: in early childhood, among 3- to 5-year-olds, and later on, in 8- to 12-year-olds.
What Causes Them?
No firm evidence exists to show that the growth of bones causes pain. The most likely causes are the aches and discomforts resulting from the jumping, climbing, and running that active children do during the day. The pains can occur after a child has had a particularly athletic day.
What Are the Signs and Symptoms?
Growing pains always concentrate in the r than the joints. Most children report pains in the front of their thighs, in the calves, or behind the knees. Whereas joints affected by more serious diseases are swollen, red, tender, or warm, the joints of children experiencing growing pains appear normal.
Although growing pains often strike in late afternoon or early evening before bed, there are occasions when pain can wake a slumbering child. The intensity of the pain varies from child to child, and most kids don't experience the pains every day.
How Are Growing Pains Diagnosed?
One symptom that doctors find most helpful in making a diagnosis of growing pains is how the child responds to touch while in pain. Children who have pain for a serious medical disease don't like to be handled because movement tends to increase the pain. But children with growing pains respond differently - they feel better when they're held, massaged, and cuddled.
Growing pains are what doctors call a diagnosis of exclusion
. This means that other conditions should be ruled out before a diagnosis of
growing pains is made. A thorough ination by your child's doctor can usually accomplish this. In rare instances, blood
and X-ray studies may be required before a final diagnosis of growing pains is made.
How Can You Help Your Child?
Some things that may help alleviate the pain include:
• massaging the area
• placing a heating pad on the area
• giving ibuprofen or acetaminophen (Never give aspirin to a child under 12
When Should I Call My Child's Doctor?
Alert your child's doctor if any of the following symptoms occur with your child's pain:
• persistent pain, pain in the morning, or swelling or redness in one particular area or joint • pain associated with a particular injury • • limping • unusual rashes • loss of appetite • weakness • tiredness • uncharacteristic behavior
These signs are not
due to growing pains and should be evaluated by a child's doctor.
Although growing pains often point to no serious illness, they can be upsetting to a child - or a parent. Because a child seems completely cured
of the aches in the morning, parents sometimes suspect that the child faked the pains. However, this usually is not
the case. Support and
reassurance that growing pains will pass as children grow up can help them relax.
Updated and reviewed by: Date reviewed: November 2004
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