Ask Dr. Marla: Handling Growing Pains

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I recently read your answer to a question about growing pains (March/April 2010). My four-and-a-half-year-old daughter has experienced this already, usually in the knee area. Sometimes she just screams for help to make it stop. Once the pain has begun, what can I do to help her?


Firstly, it is important to confirm the diagnosis of growing pains and make sure that other possibilities have been excluded. Growing pains can present in children as young as  three. A thorough examination and history by your physician is critical. A review article in the journal Rheumatology on chronic musculoskeletal pain in children pointed out that pain is a normal sensation but becomes disabling when it persists and is associated with suffering. As parents, it is emotionally distressing to watch our children in pain. Often our own sense of helplessness and panic is picked up by our children, which can add to their symptoms.

What you should do?
If the diagnosis is confirmed, this condition, while poorly understood, is self-limiting, which means it will eventually go away. Remain calm and reassuring with your child. Therapy is typically conservative – such as a warm bath or massage. I am often reluctant to medicate children with growing pains as typical growing pains will last about 15 minutes or less.

Talk to your doctor if conservative strategies are not helping. Ask about specific medications and under what circumstances they should be used.

Got a health question? Submit it to Dr. Marla.

Published in ParentsCanada magazine, August 2010

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