Categories: Orthopaedics

Growth Pains: What is it all about?

Growth pains or growing pains can refer to pain in a child’s limbs, usually the legs though the exact cause for this pain is not known as yet to medical science. Children sometimes complain of pain in their legs after their routine activities. Parents should never ignore these pains since any pain in the body is a warning signal or health alerting message.

Such “growth pains” usually affect children aged between 3 and 10 years. The root cause of such pain may be a medical mystery but this pain can be treated.

Growth Pain is detected through the diagnosis of exclusion or eliminating all other possible medical reasons until the doctor decides there can be no other explanation for the pain than as “Growth Pains”.

As with other medical conditions, a detailed patient history becomes crucial. The child complains of pain in the legs towards the end of the day, but the day started pain-free. Physical examinations of the child show normalcy, likewise Hematological Parameters: various conditions specific to growing children such as infections of the bone, nutritional deficiency, etc. which exhibit similar symptoms as Growth Pains. A thorough clinical examination is needed.

As mentioned earlier, the exact cause of “Growth Pains” is not known to medical science. One possible cause is that growing children have their muscles and bones growing at a different rate meaning the bones grow faster than muscles. This imbalance causes muscular shortening and stretching of muscles, thereby causing pain for the child busy in physical activities. Here, physiotherapy has a very important role in the treatment of Growth Pains.

Not all children suffer from Growth Pains, and this adds to the mystery surrounding the origins of Growth Pains. The Muscular Fatigue theory explains Growth Pain due to muscle fatigue from the child’s physical activities.

Signs of Growth Pains in the Child that needs medical attention:

  1. The pain is severe enough for the child to wake up in the middle of the night and is unable to sleep.
  2. Persistent pain throughout the day that is severe enough to restrict the child from normal physical activities.
  3. The child’s weight decreases by more than 10% in the last 3 months.

The child must be taken to a Paediatric Orthopedic as early as possible if the above warning signals persist.


If every other possible reason is ruled out and the pain is confirmed as Growth Pain, the child will grow out of the pain gradually through growing older. This means Mother Nature has set the balance right in the growth rate of muscles and bones. In the interim though, physiotherapy becomes very important to give the growing child relief from pain. Physiotherapy includes both muscle stretching and strengthening. Anti-inflammatory medicines, hot fomentations, and massage to the sore muscles can also give the child relief until the child grows older and grows out of the Growth Pains.

Dr. Mohit Kumar Arora, Orthopedic Surgeon, Narayana Superspeciality Hospital, Gurugram

Narayana Health

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