Growing Pains

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Growing pains in 5-year-old

April 2008

My little boy wakes up sometimes because his legs hurt. I have heard about ''growing Pain'' and wonder if that's what this is? If it is growing pains, is that something that should be treated? It seems to be for a few nights, every other month or so. Should I be worried about it? He says it doesn't hurt in the day time? Also, it seems to be around his knees and has been both legs. I don't have insurance and have to pay at the Doctors, so, I don't take them in unless I need to. Do I need to? I want him to be OK!!!

I can't diagnose your child, but I will tell you about my experience with my son. He also has growing pains from time to time, especially around his knees. I talked to the pediatrician about it, and he said that it's a temporary phase and there isn't much you can do about it. Stretching can be beneficial. If it's really bad, then some Advil. But otherwise, he'll grow out of it. In short, don't be too alarmed. Mom
Been there!!! My now 13 yo has had leg pains exactly as you describe. He'd get them every few months or every few weeks for a few days on and off...only at night, whether he was growing or not. WHat helped him was massage and hot water bottles. About 6 months ago my son went on a gluten free diet and his leg pains stopped. No one ever suggested the pain could be food allergy related but I think this is too glaring to be a coincidence. It might be worth a try. Gluten is a very common allergy and most symptoms would not make you think ''oh, gluten...'' Good luck....also they could wear off as your son gets older, which also happens. June
We have struggled with the exact same thing for over 3 years, so I know your pain (although we can't know our sons'). I have brought it up with each and every doctor and they have all dismissed it (some more lightly than others) as essentially growing pains that are real, esp. at the younger age, but may be ''imagined'' at an older age, in an attempt for consolation/attention, etc. My son is now 5, and the pain is much more sporadic (ie. once every couple of months now, as opposed to almost once a week before), but like your son, it was always at night, and eventually ended up being in just one knee, not both.

I was completely freaked out about it for a long time, and I still have moments of anxiety about it. But it is usually allayed by the fact that if I lay with him and rub his knee, and occassionally give him a couple drops of Motrin, it all goes away. I still bring it up with his doctor though, just to be sure he is aware that it persists. But I am (finally) at peace with the diagnosis. Mom of a Pain in the Knee

My son has complained of growing pains intermittently over the past 2-3 years. He is seven now. The doctor said they are real and fairly common. She said the vast majority of the time they are just that - growing pains - sometimes they can just be muscle fatigue because the little guy plays so much and so hard during the day - and very occasionally they have to do with shoes and structural development - but usually just growing pains. For my son acknowleging them goes a long way towards getting him to sleep. Sometimes I give him a hot water bottle and that helps him. Very rarely I have given him Children's Tylenol. I don't want him to think that the medication is his panacea so I go for the first two things when I can...Good luck and know that it is almost certainly not serious. My son has growing pains too
I had growing pains as a child (would wake up in the middle of the night because my legs hurt) and both my girls (now 4 and 7) had them. They felt like cramps (charlie horse?) and I believe they have nothing to do with growing and everything to do with over-exertion during the day and the build up of lactic acid (or whatever) in the muscles.

When I was a child my mother would put hot (I mean HOT) towels on my legs and that would take away the pain. Or use a heating pad. For my girls, at first I would give them Motrin (which works like a charm within 5 minutes). But I started to worry about over-medicating them (even though it was only 2 or 3 times a week at most). So if they complain at night before bed that their legs hurt, I get out a heating pad and wrap their leg up on the high setting for at least 15 minutes. It needs to be hot (but of course, not burning). This usually does the trick. But if they wake up in the middle of the night, then we use the motrin. Other things that have worked for me are massaging their legs but that takes more effort on my part than I have at the end of the day.

My 7 year old rarely gets these pains anymore. But my 4 year old still does once or twice a month. It seemed to happen more frequently when they were younger. Cecilia

a condensed version of advice i recently saw elsewhere about this:

Growing pains are usually a multiple mineral issue. It helps to understand how bones are laid down. Here's a bone 101:

Bone is made of a criss cross collagen matrix. To ''grow'' good bones vitamin C is necessary to make collagen. But to make collagen, you have to have a good food source of gelatin. The collagen forms bonds with calcium. In order to have good calcium bonds, Vitamin K is necessary to pull in the calcium and help bond it to the collagen If children won't eat fresh greens, or other vitamin K foods, then that causes problems pulling the calcium in. If there isn't enough magnesium, then the calcium won't be stable in the bones, and lack of magnesium is usually linked with cramp. Vitamin D, boron and silica are important for structural strength... a lot goes into laying down strong bones, which are also flexible.

With children there is a huge increase in bone growth going on. They need a really good mineral rich, natural diet to help that. The old idea of cod liver oil, and blackstrap molasses was not as stupid as it sounded.

If you google foods looking for the main bone minerals, you should be able to find good selections. If you see that they are primarily foods he doesn't like, then you might have an idea what the problems stems from. If they are foods he does like, then increase them across as broad a range as possible, and hopefully it will work out.

But not much will work out if she's not getting enough vitamin C, because without that, the collagen matrix will be vastly decreased, therefore so will her calcium bonding, and the bones won't form properly. If it gets really bad and really chronic, and an X-ray is taken, you can see ''Harris lines'' on certain bones, which are sort of like ''tide marks'' marking the places where there wasn't enough vitamin C.

Usually, it rights itself if there is a good enough diet. But if there is not, and say, she fractures a bone and on the X-ray they see Harris lines, then they will tell you (if they actually understand what they are seeing, and that is a moot point) that you need to attend to her diet. Most doctors though, don't know the nutritional pathways to strong bones, so they aren't likely to suggest much beyond vitamin C, if that, let alone discuss the whole of it. Anyway, that's only a brief overview. ~more minerals for all!

the post above gives some suggestions for fixing things in the long term. in the short term, taking a trace mineral supplement (drops diluted in water), and some magnesium, calcium and potassium can help. ''natural calm plus calcium'' (a magnesium/calcium supplement) also has potassium. here's the natural calm ''infomercial'' website: a good trace mineral supplement is concentrace: both products are cheaper at food sources of potassium are easily googled. here's one list: ~more minerals for all!
My neighbor (5 yo) suffers from it and uses a hot water bottle at night. But as to insurance--have you applied for Healthy Families? You should be able to get insurance for your son ($6/month) through the government. My son has this insurance. If you have not investigated this option and are interested, look up If you have any questions I would be happy to talk to you. limor
My daughters have both had ''growing pains'' in their legs, but mostly during the day. Another little girl we know (4) had it at night and in the mornings. Her knees were very stiff and painful, and the parents took her to 2 doctors. She was even tested for arthritis, and none was found. They said to give her children's Advil and it would go away. It did, after a couple months, and she is now pain free. Best of luck, heidi
My 7 y. old daughter has had these occasionally for a few years. It can be extremely painful, yet one Tylenol relieves the pain and she's asleep again within 5 minutes. I believe there is a homeopathic remedy that can also be helpful. The pediatrician says that as long as these pains do not inhibit daily activity, it's no problem. anon
I had growing pains as a kid, but in the crevice line at the tops of my legs. Why not rub some arnica gel on the aching parts? anon
Had to respond to Growing Pains-- I WAS in the same boat I have a 4 yr old now. Growth spurts are pretty common at this age & we also went through agonizing night terrors (maybe the growing pains woke him in the deep sleep patterns, not sure). We're pretty much over it & I use AB CALM purchased at Whole Foods. Best thing I ever purchased, mix it in his milk before bed time. AB Calm is a ''freeze dried Instant Calcium Magnesium drink'' even the pkging states prevents leg cramps. I take it on occasion to help me get to sleep too. Keep it in the fridge & it's a life saver. My toddler was a very picky eater & I'm sure not always getting all his vitamins & minerals (& he was a breastfed kid for 2 yrs!) We never used painkillers (thought about it), just soothing hot waterbottles/hot stuffed bears. --He'll be OK soon!
I had growing pains behind my knees as a child. They would wake me from my sleep and were very painful when I was young. My parents would massage behind my knees and apply heat. The pains became far less severe over time, but actually lasted until I was in college. They became less frequent and much less painful long before that, though. When I was a teen, I would take acetomenophin or ibuprofen, which got rid of the ache. The bright side, I would say, is that I remember those nights with my mom or dad rubbing my leg and helping me with the pain warmly-- they are nice memories of my parents' love. By the way, I always had a pretty balanced, healthful diet, so I don't think it was a nutrient lack-- but, who knows! They've probably learned more about these things since the '80s. anon

Growing pains in 5-year-old

Oct 2002

My five and a half year old girl has been complaining that her knees and shins hurt. It's usually at night, after she's been curled up reading on the couch. It's not consistent, but two nights this week she woke up out of a deep sleep weeping with pain. I put arnica gel on her shins, and this seemed to help a little, but the second night I was compelled to give her Children's Motrin to help ease the pain so she could go back to sleep. She walks normally and doesn't complain at all about her legs hurting during the day. In the morning following these episodes, she says she feels fine. I should add that she's a very tall girl for her age. Has anyone out there had experience with this? I'm calling her doctor this week, but short of getting X-rays (which I'd rather avoid unless there's reason to think there's something really dire going on), but in the meantime, I'm hoping some parent out there can suggest what might be going on. Thanks very much, Julie T.

I remember growing pains as a child, and they really hurt! I had them in first or second grade and again at about 10 yrs of age. The best help I found then, and that I still see recommended, is calcium. A big glass of milk or some cheese, etc., right before bedtime may help. Massaging the legs helps as well. Good luck! Eden
Hi Julie, My 7 1/2 year old son has had ''growing pains'' since he was about 4 or so. They come and go in phases. Pains in his legs and or feet, usually at night. Just as you described he would sometimes wake up crying at night. I've used Arnica with minimal success but Calcarea Phosphorica seemed to do the trick most of the time. He refuses to take aspirin of any sort. Massage helps and also a hot water bottle on his feet or legs (wet heat, not a heating pad)or a warm bath if it's a reasonable hour. I tried good shoes with no change. It was suggested that the cause was possibly a calcium deficiency so we tried chewable calcium supplements...the pains left for a while but then came back. Lately he hasn't had them so I'm hoping he's done...we'll see. My pediatrician said no one really knows why some kids get pains in their legs and feet. It would make sense that if the bones are quickly growing it would affect the muslces and could cause pain. I hope this is helpful to you. Best wishes June
Both my daughter (4.5 yrs) and I suffered from these ''growing pains'' as my mother used to call them. My mom used to give me children's asprin and a hot water bottle and I seem to recall it helping. At the suggestion of a friend, I started giving my daughter chewable calcium/magnesium supplements (purchased at Whole Foods) after supper / before bed. She calls them her ''leg sick vitamins''. Her growing pains have largely gone away, although she is occasionally (once a month) awoken by leg pain. Then I bring her the hot water bottle and that seems to provide relief. Good luck! Rachel
My seven-year-old has had occasional growing pains for several years. She, too, is tall for her age. What you describe is exactly what she experiences, pain during the night in the shins or knees, bad enough to wake her up, but fine during the day. I just give her tylenol. You can check with your pediatrician, but I really don't think it's anything to worry about. Melinda
From the recent literature I've read, it seems that a growing number of researchers are arguing that ''growing pains'' are not really what their name leads us to think they are. There is purportedly much research showing that kids who have ''growing pains'' have rheumatological problems as grown-ups. The most common of these problems is fibromyalgia. I have read over and over again articles insisting that it should NOT hurt to grow. There is probably something else going on. I keep thinking fibromyalgia as I read your post, not only because of the ''growing pains'' but also because of your observation that the pain occurs mostly at night and mostly in the legs. This is a common thing with kids with fibromyalgia. Please don't let your doctor blow this off. I recommend browsing articles online and also if possible reading Dr. Paul St. Amand's book What your Doctor may not tell you about Pediatric Fibromyalgia, which offers, among other things, just about the only comprehensive overview of the symptomatology of pediatric fibromyalgia. Doctors in general, and even in the Bay Area, are extremely ignorant when it comes to these things. Good luck with your search to help your child. sara

8-year-old with leg pain

April 1999

Every week or two, our 8 year old daughter has leg/foot/hand pain. Last night she woke up 4 times with pain--first it was her right leg, then her left leg, then her right foot, and finally her right hand. She is a very heavy sleeper, so I imagine the pain was quite intense for it to wake her up. She has been unable to give us a description of what kind of pain (e.g. sharp, throbbing, achey)it is. We didn't give her Tylenol last night, but we have in the past and it seems to help. We've talked to the pediatrician about this and she didn't have anything definitive to say about it. A couple of theories are: these are growing pains (although it's the joints that are supposed to hurt, and our daughter's joints don't hurt); leg cramps due to dehydration or too much strenuous activity. I would appreciate hearing from other parents who have children experiencing any of these symptoms. Thank you.

Just an idea: I remember my best friend growing up had leg pains a lot, and we used to rub her legs with oil of wintergreen, which is over-the-counter available at pharmacies. She did not have joint pain either. She called them legaches! Good luck!
When I was about 6 years old, I experienced aches and pains in my legs. Although I don't remember what time of day they would occur most often, I do remember they bothered me quite a bit. Probably within a year of when these aches first occurred, I was tested for food allergies and found that I was allergic to cow's milk. My parents stopped giving me milk, which I quickly lost my taste for, and put me on calcium supplements and the pains went away. Up until my late twenties, if I ever drank more than 8 oz. of milk, I would still get the same kind of leg aches. Also, I would only have this reaction from drinking milk, not from eating dairy products like cheese or ice cream. I still have other allergic reactions to milk (sinus problems), but the leg aches are finally gone. I know this sounds kind of weird, and I've never heard of anybody else having the same kind of reaction, but this might be a theory to explore.
My eleven-year old son complained of his legs and ankles hurting so I started giving him chewable vitamin B-12 which my doctor had adviced I take as part of treatment for my occassional leg cramps, headheaches and iron absorption problems. He has not complained of the leg pains for the past few months since he has taken the B-12 in the morning with his chewable daily vitamin and breakfast.
My son had pains also, mostly in his legs (not specifically the joints). We went so far as to have them x-rayed. Nothing. Normal. His doctor decided they were growing pains, so we all stopped worrying about them. They'd come and go and now have gone for good. I'd suggest a couple of home remedies if your doctor can also find no cause for your child's pains: try a heating pad with him in bed at night. Or try ice packs. Try one of those stretchy bandages. (These plus a bandaid cure a lot of aches and pains!) Good luck.