Most of us have experienced growing pains when we were little. Many children experience pains in the lower legs, usually in the thighs and the calf muscles, in the late afternoon or evening. The pains are gone by the time the child wakes up in the morning. The term is really a misnomer, because there is no medical evidence that growing actually hurts. If growing doesn’t hurt, then what causes the leg cramps?
What causes growing pains?
The medical community doesn’t really understand what causes growing pains. There doesn’t seem to be an absolute cause for them. Some doctors believe that growing pains can occur when a child is going through a rapid growth spurt. The bones of the legs are getting longer and the muscles, tendons and ligaments are growing too. However, there is no scientific data to show that growing actually causes the pain and discomfort that young children experience. It is possible that children feel more pain from their playful activity during their period of rapid growth.
Could growing pains really be juvenile arthritis?
Approximately one out of three children experience growing pains. I remember having them, and they were very painful. I remember crying with them at least four or five times a month. My mother took me to the doctor told my mom not to worry, that I was having growing pains.
There is no swelling or signs of inflammation with growing pains. If you notice that your child is complaining of pain in one leg, but not the other, this could be a sign that there is some kind of underlying condition that is causing the pain. For instance, juvenile arthritis is an autoimmune disease which causes inflammation of the joints. This disease would give more significant symptoms than growing pains. If you notice swelling and inflammation, your child will need to see a physician as soon as possible.
Your child should be seen by a doctor if he/she:
Complains of pain when standing, walking and playing
Has inflammation in the legs (warmth and redness)
Has swelling in the joints and surrounding tissues
Can’t bend the leg
Has an elevated temperature
Growing pains and juvenile rheumatoid arthritis
If your child has any of the above symptoms, he/she should see a physician right away because your child could have a juvenile rheumatoid arthritis or some other underlying disease or condition which causes similar symptoms. You may not know the difference, but your child’s doctor will know the difference between growing pains and juvenile arthritis.
It is believed that growing pains could actually be a symptom of potassium deficiency in the body. You might want to add bananas and oranges to your child’s diet on a regular basis. For pain relief, children usually respond well to taking warm baths. Heat seems to help the aches, pains and cramps in the legs. You might also give a gentle massage to ease away muscle tightness. If the pains aren’t relieved totally by these measures, you might ask your child’s pediatrician if you can give him/her an analgesic for pain and discomfort. Growing pains usually go away by the time the child is 11 or 12 years of age.