“It’s more about what they’re not,” explains Dr. Marni Hanna, a paediatrician in Winnipeg. For example, if nothing is swollen or red and there hasn’t been any trauma, cramping in your kiddos’ legs could be chalked up to growing pains. “You just have to rule out the more worrisome causes,” Dr. Hanna says. But despite their name and the very real soreness that kids feel, there’s no definitive proof that any limbs are lengthening during the pain.
“Most often it’s the calves and quads,” says Greg Lehman, a physiotherapist in Toronto. “But not the joints.” Dr. Hanna agrees. “I wouldn’t call them growing pains if they were always in one leg, or always in an arm.” They generally appear in the latter half of the day, and should be gone by morning.
Growing pains hit kids from the tender age of two right up to 12, says Dr. Hanna, who adds she sees at least one patient a week with these symptoms.
Try a warm bath, a heating pad or a hot water bottle. You can also try massaging the aching area. If those home remedies don’t work, Dr. Hanna suggests giving your child acetaminophen or ibuprofen, but if you have to resort to pain meds every night, it’s time to see your doctor. You also don’t need to worry about special stretches or exercises, promises Lehman. “This is a self-limiting condition that will go away on its own.”
This is nothing to fret about, says Lehman. “If you get nervous and afraid, you’ll pass it on to your child, and they’ll feel nervous and afraid. This can amplify the pain.” He advises a healthy dose of reassurance from Mom and Dad to help make kids feel better.
Originally published in the ParentsCanada Fall 2018 issue.