What Are “Growing Pains” and their Symptoms and Causes?

Mother comforting daughterIt can happen all of a sudden, perhaps like this: Last night you awoke with a start. Your child was crying in pain. During the day, nothing had seemed out of the ordinary. When you rushed to your crying child, you found him or her holding the lower leg area. What could this mean?

One possibility is that your child could have what is commonly referred to as “growing pains.” According to the Mayo Clinic, growing pains in children often occur during the evening and are characterized by discomfort in the lower extremities.

For parents who may have had a child experience this, it can undoubtedly be frightening. To help explain the issue, we’ve compiled the following information about what’s known so far concerning this strange phenomenon.

What causes “growing pains?”

No one is entirely sure. Shari Nethersole, an assistant professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and a physician at Children’s Hospital, Boston, has written that no one in the medical community has been able to pin down what’s behind this issue. Similarly, the American Academy of Pediatrics reports the same thing. Both sources agree that whatever the cause of these pains, they do not actually have to do with growth.

What are the symptoms?

Most children report aches and soreness in both legs, anywhere from the calf to the thighs. According to the Mayo Clinic, this leg discomfort can also occasionally be accompanied by headaches or abdominal pain.

What can parents do?

If your child experiences “growing pains,” don’t worry; there are things you can do to help. The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests massaging his or her legs, as well as following these other tips.

Although the pain should subside, it’s important to be on the lookout if it doesn’t, notes the Academy of Pediatrics, or for other symptoms such as limping, fever, or swelling that do not go away. Should you notice any of those symptoms, be sure to contact your pediatrician.

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