Everyone knows that growing up and getting older is tough, but for some kids it can literally be painful. Many children – and as a result their parents – find themselves being woken up in the middle of the night with unexplainable pain in their legs and lower body. This occurrence is commonly called ‘growing pains’, but is this an actual condition or just a popular television show from the 80s?
Growing pains are a recognized and studied syndrome. They are defined as the neuralgic pain that occurs in the extremities and limbs of some children. The technical term for this condition is ‘noninflammatory pain syndrome’, but the phrase ‘growing pains’ first appeared in a French doctor’s journal in 1823 and has stuck ever since.
Typically, children will begin to experience pain in their legs from five years old until their early teens (at the latest). The throbbing will usually occur in both legs although not necessarily at the same time, every time.
Since its initial labeling in 1823, doctors and researchers have discovered that contrary to what the name suggests, the discomfort actually has little to do with rapid growth since about a quarter of an average human’s growth occurs primarily in puberty.
Although there is still some speculation on the exact cause of growing pains, once of the most basic explanations is that it’s simply a result of over activity in combination with a low pain threshold. Every child develops differently and their bodies are still learning to adapt to handles stress. Because of this, children with varying activity levels can be affected differently than their peers.
A more conclusive theory to explain growing pains is that it’s related to overall joint and musculoskeletal health. For instance, one trial found that double-jointed kids are more likely to suffer from growing pains. Children who have flat feet are also more prone to have these problems.
While there’s no magic pill to fix growing pains, there are many ways to reduce the discomfort. To help prevent them from occurring, regular stretching of the entire lower body has shown to be useful.
Additionally, to treat any symptoms, heat and light massage can be applied to the area. For more extreme pain, ibuprofen or aspirin can be administered.