About growing pains in children and teenagers

Growing pains are very common, especially during the primary school years.

We don’t really know what causes growing pains – but they’re not caused by growing! In most children with growing pains, nothing obvious brings them on.

One theory is that they’re related to exercise, but this isn’t always the case.

Some children with growing pains might also get stomach pain and headaches. For these children, growing pains might be related to stress or anxiety.

Symptoms of growing pains

If your child has growing pains, she might say she has an aching or a burning sensation in both legs – in the muscles of the thighs, calves or feet. The pains can also happen in the arms or other parts of the body, although this is much less common.

Growing pains usually happen at night and can sometimes wake your child. They’re also common in the daytime but are rarely bad enough to get in the way of daily activity.

In most children, the pain or discomfort tends to come and go. It’s hard to know when growing pains are going to happen.

A child with growing pains will usually let you massage the painful area. This can help you tell the difference between growing pains and a more serious condition. Children whose leg pains have a more serious cause won’t usually let anyone touch the painful area.

Does your child need to see a doctor about growing pains?

You should take your child to see your GP if you think there’s something more serious going on. For example, take your child to the GP if:

  • the pains are very bad and don’t go away
  • your child is limping
  • the painful body part is tender, feels hot or is swollen.

Tests for growing pains

Your child won’t usually need any tests. Occasionally your GP might order an X-ray or blood test to make sure there’s no other cause for the pain, like a fracture or inflammation.

Treatment for growing pains

There’s no specific treatment for growing pains. Your child just needs you to tell him that the pains aren’t serious and they’ll go away.

Massaging or placing a heat pack over the affected area might help. Muscle stretches before going to bed might also help. Occasionally your GP might suggest you give your child some mild pain relief like paracetamol.

There’s no need to stop your child from doing physical activity.

Growing pains usually sort themselves out over time.

Prevention of growing pains

You can’t do anything to prevent growing pains.