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Are growing pains real?

Updated: Apr 15

A man skateboarding down low on the ground

What are growing pains?

Growing pain is a general term used to describe several conditions that affect the limbs in otherwise healthy children of all ages. The pain experienced, is a non-specific / aching pain especially after exercise or increased activity.

Are they serious?

A child’s & adolescent’s body is very different from an adult’s. Because the bones & joints are still growing and forming, the muscles & nerves are constantly being stretched and put under pressure.

Additionally, as we grow through childhood and adolescence our body shape changes. Therefore we need to constantly reset our whole body awareness – things like balance and coordination levels are a big part of these changes and awareness drivers.

What causes growing pains?

As children and adolescents we are more vulnerable to overuse injuries than adults due to the presence of growth plates and other tissues that are not at full strength.

The following can contribute to growing pains;

  • Muscular tiredness – more physical activity than usual can be linked to more aching muscles for some children, although all children have some days when they do a lot more things than other days and most do not get pain. Strenuous activities such as running and jumping may result in an overuse response of the leg muscles, resulting in tiredness and pain in the legs and feet.

  • Poor posture – standing, sitting or walking awkwardly puts greater than usual strain on the supporting muscles of the body. Anomalies of the lower limbs such as flat feet or knock knees create increased leg muscle work.

  • Tight muscles; Generalised pain in the legs can occur from tight musculature as it places more stress on tendons, bones and joints.

  • Joint hyper-mobility; Generalised pain in legs can occur when ligaments are more ‘stretchy’ than they should be as they are unable to provide enough support to the joints. As a result, muscles in the legs and feet must work harder to provide the stability.

  • Emotional upset – stress or unhappiness may trigger aches and pains, but this is not often the case for many children who have pain.

Treating growing pains

Early intervention is the best way to manage injuries. Young children are very good at regulating their own activity levels with sport and activity still seen as fun therefore they won’t tend to “push through pain”.

However, pain that is stopping them from participating or is recurrent should not be ignored. Often these injuries can be very easily managed in the early stages, allowing children to continue their normal activity. If pain is ignored, the presentation can quickly become more serious leading to issues with delayed healing and a much longer period out of sport.

Always seek professional advice to make sure that there is no other cause of pain. At In Stride Health Clinic, our practitioners will;

  • obtain a thorough diagnosis of your child’s injury.

  • provide treatment to assist in the healing process.

  • give a rehabilitation and strengthening program individually designed for your child’s needs/workload.

  • help to ensure that they can return to sport safely without reoccurrence.

  • provide feedback to coaches/parents about short-term modifications which will allow children to continue their activity as soon as possible, while ensuring the best long term outcome.

  • identify potential problems that may be developing and address these with a preventative program.

  • offer a family friendly environment.

What next?

If your child experiences pain in the lower limbs, it is important to rule out other possible medical conditions first. Once a definitive diagnosis of growing pains is made, the treatment plan is formulated which specifically addresses your child’s contributing factors.

At In Stride Health Clinic, we have a range of options that are affordable when children are still growing. To book your appointment with one of our podiatrists or physiotherapists click here.

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