How to tell if it's growing pains - or something more

2012-11-27 10:46:51 by Public Relations staff, as posted on the blog.

Does your child wake up in the middle of the night crying and complaining that his legs hurt? If so, it could be growing pains.

But how can you be sure?

“Growing pains are pains in the legs that occur in the late afternoon or at night, and they may awaken a sleeping child. They tend to peak between the ages of 2 and 5 and again between 8 and 12,” said Mary Toth, MD, director of pediatric rheumatology at Akron Children’s Hospital.

Growing pains are typically found in the front of the thighs or calves or behind the knees. They don’t involve the joints and the intensity can vary from child to child.

Because growing pains are gone by morning, parents sometimes suspect the child is faking it, but that’s rarely the case. By recognizing that growing pains are real and reassuring your child they will pass as she grows, you will help her relax and cope when the painful episodes occur.

“Growing pains tend to be sporadic with the pain going away after a few hours. They may occur for a few days in a row and then stop, or occur occasionally over a few weeks,” said Dr. Toth.

No evidence has shown that the growth of bones causes pain. Growing pains are most likely muscular and may be the result of active play, such as jumping, climbing and running.

However, they aren’t always caused by activity and aren’t the same as muscular pain caused by strenuous exercise or sports.

“Children may also have leg pain if they aren’t getting enough calcium or have a vitamin D deficiency,” said Dr. Toth.

Pain in the joints is a cause for concern, especially if the joints are swollen and red, as this could be a sign of rheumatoid arthritis. Knee pain is also worrisome, particularly if range of motion in the joint is reduced. If these symptoms occur, have your child evaluated by the doctor to rule out other problems.

Learn more about growing pains, how to provide relief, and when to call the doctor by watching this video.

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