Many parents report that their kids wake them in the middle of the night complaining of limb pain. The idea behind these “growing pains” makes sense: as the theory goes, the process of bone elongation can trigger aches and pains in young children who are growing rapidly. According to our orthopedic doctors at Southeast Orthopedic Specialists, however, the scientific research does not support the idea that kids’ “growing pains” are truly due to body growth.

What Are “Growing Pains?”

Growing pains are more than just parental anecdotes; they are a well-documented condition of childhood. Typically, growing pains occur between 4 and 12 years of age, declining during adolescence.growing pains in children

Despite this, pediatric specialists say that there is no medical explanation for actual growth triggering pain. Doctors refer to the condition as “non-specific limb pains of childhood.” Perhaps 1 in 5 children suffer from this limb pain. Typically, children wake up in the night complaining of pain in both legs. Parents may massage the limbs or provide over-the-counter medications to ease the pain. Eventually, the pains just go away.

Unfortunately, doctors still do not understand exactly what causes these “growing pains.” One theory is that the pain may be similar to the type of pain experienced with shin splints. For example, children who are particularly active or have recently been more active than usual may put more stress on their muscles and tendons. This could contribute to non-specific pain of the limbs. Another theory is that children who report growing pains may simply be more sensitive to pain than other children. Thus, the normal aches and pains of daily activities could affect them more.

When to Visit a Doctor Because of Kids’ Growing Pains

In general, kids’ growing pains are nothing to worry about. There is no evidence that experiencing growing pains will lead to poorer outcomes in adulthood or somehow affect your child’s development. However, if your child is consistently complaining of limb pain, it could be a sign of a more serious problem. Visit a doctor if your child reports the following problems:

  • Pain during the day
  • Pain in just one leg
  • Redness on the limbs
  • A limb that feels warm to the touch
  • Pain that is severe and does not go away

If your child is experiencing persistent aches and pains, there may be an alternative medical explanation than simply “growing pains.” Our specialists at Southeast Orthopedic Specialists can help you identify the problem at the root of these growing pains, helping your child get back to a pain-free life.

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