Growing up can be a real pain – literally. It’s not uncommon for children to experience aches in their legs, sometimes so nagging that it wakes them from their sleep at night. Fortunately, the pain is harmless (albeit harrowing for some). The diagnosis? Growing pains.
Ironically, growing pains are not due to growing:
The reasons for growing pains can be vague but one thing is certain: growing pains are not necessarily associated with growing up. That’s because bone growth isn’t painful, however, muscle pain is real. And that pain is amplified when the child is involved in sports involving running, climbing and jumping. This high level of physical activity can impact the musculoskeletal system – your child’s bones, muscles and tendons – and trigger night pains.
To better understand growing pains, it helps to know what is happening in the background. Your child’s musculoskeletal system is experiencing change: the body’s long bones grow faster than what the muscles and tendons can stretch and this continual pulling of the tight muscles and tendons as the bones lengthen culminates in pain. Growing pains are commonly experienced at night when the body has relaxed and is usually felt in the calves, heels and shins.
Growing pains typically affect school aged children aged 8-11 and the good news is, the aches are not permanent. They lessen over time and your child will outgrow them!
Too much sport can be a real pain:
You may notice your child complain of pains usually after a day of high impact activity – particularly with running, jumping and kicking related sports – because of the repetitive muscle contraction.
The aches can be passed over as a minor sports injury or even disregarded by a child who doesn’t want to make a fuss in fear of being sidelined from their favourite sport.
The condition doesn’t pose a risk and the pains usually subside quickly. While the pain strikes at night, it is usually gone by morning. However, for some children, the muscle tension and associated pain can disrupt their sleep and have a negative impact on their wellbeing.
How physiotherapy can ease the pain so your child can stay in the game:
Some experts advise a heat pack and lots of cuddles but sometimes simple treatments like a hug just isn’t going to cut it. Especially in severe cases when the pain is so debilitating it affects a child’s ability to walk normally. Physiotherapy can be beneficial in alleviating the pain. As part of our assessment, we would examine your child’s range of movement as well as muscle length and strength. Treatment may include deep tissue massage which is particularly effective in easing muscular tension but we can also demonstrate the best stretching exercises to help reduce the pain. We may also refer you to other services if the pain is a result of other factors like a foot pronation that requires orthotics. If your child’s pain has you concerned, make an appointment to establish a diagnosis