These pains occur after a child has had a particularly athletic or busy play day. They also occur during growth spurts. The intensity of the pain varies from child to child, and most kids don't experience the pains every day. Because a child seems completely cured of the aches in the morning, parents sometimes suspect that the child is faking 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.
Growing pains concentrate in the muscles, rather than the joints and generally strike during two periods: in early childhood among 3- to 5-year-olds and later on in 8- to 12-year-olds. No firm evidence exists to establish the cause of these growing pains and for years, they were not taken very seriously. However, since massage, hot baths with Epsom salts or a moist heating pad will help relieve the pain, it would make sense that the pain is coming from over-stretched soft tissue including muscles, tendons and ligaments. One hypothesis is that the bones may be growing faster than the support structure of muscles, tendons and ligaments, so they tend to be overstretched, which causes pain.
One reaction that is 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 do not like to be handled, since movement or pressure tends to increase the pain. Children with growing pains respond differently; they feel better when they are held, massaged, and cuddled.
What Else Could It Be?
While joints affected by more serious diseases are swollen, red, tender, or warm, the joints of children experiencing growing pains appear normal. If any of the following symptoms occur with your child's pain: persistent pain, swelling, or redness in one particular area or joint, fever, limping; unusual rashes; loss of appetite; weakness; tiredness; or uncharacteristic behavior, it warrants a trip to the doctor’s office. These signs do not accompany growing pains and may be an indication of a medical problem that needs attention.
Pains or symptoms localized to the shoulders, arms, wrists, hands, fingers, neck, or back, or pain associated with a particular injury are not due to growing pains, and should be evaluated by a doctor.
What Can I Do For My Child?
The most effective treatment for growing pains is massage, hot baths with Epsom salts, a hot water bottle or a moist heating pad. If a heating pad is used, keep the setting at the lowest and limit its application to 10 to 15 minutes in each area. These treatments will help relieve the pain and offer comfort to the child.
Also be sure your child is getting a quality, complete multivitamin/mineral or whole food supplement to strengthen his growing body and provide all the proper nutrients. A little extra calcium and magnesium will also help relax the muscles.