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.