What are growing pains?

Growing pains are a common children’s condition causing muscle pains in the legs at night. They are thought to coincide with children growth spurts (however there is no firm evidence it is linked) hence the name “growing pains”.

Growing pains can be a problem for both children and parents. They are most common in the muscles of the calves, thighs and behind the knee. Episodes are usually spasmodic and symptoms can range from a mild ache or cramp to a child awakening at night screaming in agony.

Does your child suffer from growing pains?

Signs & symptoms of growing pains

The following signs or symptoms may indicate growing pains in a child:

  • Muscular pain present in the child’s thighs, calves or behind the knees
  • Episodes are usually spasmodic
  • Pain usually occurs at night and may interrupt children’s sleep
  • Pain is gone by the morning and does not interfere with daily activities
  • Pain can range from a mild ache, to a cramp, to a severe pain causing the child to scream in agony
Children's Podiatrist Camberwell

Causes of growing pains

There are many theories as to what causes growing pains. Some think its related to muscle fatigue whilst others feel it could be related to restless leg syndrome. The theory that it is due to children’s growth spurts or growth periods has limited supporting evidence.

In our opinion the most likely cause of children’s growing pains are muscle overuse and fatigue. This theory is also supported clinically. Most growing pain cases our children’s podiatrists see at our Melbourne clinic involve pre-school children aged 3-5. During these ages a child’s muscles aren’t fully developed and strong enough to deal with daily loads and activity. The end result is muscle overuse and fatigue resulting in muscular pains and cramps at night. Growing pains usually stop once a child gets older and their muscles get strong enough to cope with daily activities.

Factors that may make children more prone to growing pains include:

  • Low muscle tone
  • Ligamentous laxity
  • Tight muscles causing overuse of opposing muscles
  • Poor foot and lower leg function

Flat feet or poor foot function places more strain on children’s lower leg muscles. For example a foot that rolls in or pronates too much will place more strain on those muscles that are designed to oppose this movement. Excess strain on lower leg muscles can then lead to muscle fatigue and potential growing pains at night.

Growing pains diagnosis

Growing pains are easily diagnosed clinically by our Melbourne children’s podiatrists, who are experts in identifying children’s foot and lower leg conditions. Referral for diagnostic x-ray or MRI scans are not required unless our podiatrists are concerned of another cause.

Other conditions that can mimic growing pains symptoms include bone tumours and fractures so assessment by a children’s podiatrist is essential if your child is suffering any lower leg pain.

Podiatry treatment for growing pains

The children’s podiatrists at Melbourne Podiatrists & Orthotics are experts in treatment of children’s growing pains. Podiatry treatment is aimed at improving stability, strength and flexibility of muscles whilst reducing strain on lower leg muscles. Treatment options include:

Orthotics improve foot function which helps align children’s lower legs, making them more stable. The end result is that lower leg muscles work more efficiently with less strain and therefore don’t fatigue as quickly. Clinically our children’s podiatrists find that accurately prescribed orthotics have a significant impact on reducing the intensity and frequency of growing pains in children with poor foot mechanics.

NB. Pain in a child’s leg at night should always be taken seriously as it may be due to other more serious causes. Thus it is important that the origin of pain is accurately diagnosed by a children’s podiatrist at our Melbourne clinic.

Call us Melbourne Podiatrist

Does your child suffer from growing pains?

At our Melbourne foot clinic our children’s podiatrists are experts in the diagnosis and treatment of children’s conditions affecting the foot, ankle and lower leg. This includes growing pains.

So if your child is suffering from lower leg night pains or your think they may have growing pains book an appointment with one of our friendly children’s podiatrists today!