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Growing Pains

more about Growing Pains


Idiopathic leg pain (idiopathic means the cause is unknown)



  • Very commonly, pre-school children or children in grade school complain of what they call "leg pains," with no history of injury.

  • Nighttime pains in the lower extremities.  Seldom does this occur every night.
  • The pains are usually in the thighs or the calves, but not in the joints.  Very often, these pains occur after the child is already in bed.  Some families report the child has evening pains before bedtime.
  • Pain limited to the upper limbs is unlikely to be growing pains.

  • Unknown
  • Many studies have been done on these children, including X-rays and blood tests, but no cause has ever been found.  The pains are called growing pains, but it has no relation to childhood growth or growing length of bones.

  • After a child with the above symptoms has been evaluated for various diseases, physicians commonly attribute the pain to "growing pains" when nothing else is found.  Commonly, a detailed history and physical examination is performed.  Laboratory tests and X-rays may or may not be done in the average case.
  • The typical patient with this diagnosis has pain only at night, and it is limited to the thighs and the calves.  The general physical examination is normal, and the thighs and calves are not tender in the office or at home.
  • One helpful point in the diagnosis is that the child with growing pains likes to be handled and does not mind it if the thighs and calves are rubbed.  Children with disease of muscle or bone or joints are often quite tender there, and fear being handled.

  • Various treatments have helped growing pains: gentle massage of the thighs or calves, applying warm washcloths, or giving oral Tylenol.  Some physicians use a very small dose of oral Benadryl, based on the child's weight.

  • Emotional upset occurs when the child has many nights of pain.

  • Contact your child's physician for any recurring pain in the limbs of a child.  There is no way for a parent to tell the difference between growing pains and a serious disease of muscle, bone, or joints.




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