You tuck your child into bed and five minutes later he cries for you. You bolt back in to find him moaning that his legs hurt. You rub his legs, he feels better, and drifts back off to sleep. Later you can’t put yourself to sleep. “What was that all about?” you wonder.
Growing pains cause recurring leg pain at night that sometimes awakens children from sleep. They usually affect boys and girls in two age groups: three to five years old and eight to twelve. We don’t really know what causes growing pains. We do know that massaging the legs, one dose of pain reliever (acetaminophen or ibuprofen), and warmth can help. The kids are always fine in the morning. Often growing pains occur after a particularly active day. Fortunately, growing pains do not cause any long term problems, just temporary discomfort and some disturbed family sleep.
Before you chalk up leg pain to growing pains, you need to be sure that some other ominous source of pain is not waking your child. If you see any of these symptoms, schedule an office visit with your child’s doctor:
The pain is always in the same spot on the same leg
Your child is limping
Your child stops participating in her usual activities because of the pain
The pain comes on during exercise
Fever is present with the pain
Simple massage or Tylenol fails to relieve the pain.
Your child is losing weight or seems otherwise sick
Leg pain is accompanied by night sweats: your child’s pajamas and sheets are soaking wet
The pains seem to be getting more frequent or worse
Pain in the daytime
Even without the above symptoms, if your parent intuition is telling you to get your child checked, then please do.
Julie Kardos, MD and Naline Lai, MD
©2013 Two Peds in a Pod®