Doctors can usually diagnose growing pains without having to order any tests. In some cases, though, your doctor may order blood tests or X-rays to help rule out other problems that may be causing your child's signs and symptoms. Not all types of leg pain in children are growing pains. Sometimes leg pain may be caused by underlying conditions that can be treated.
There's no specific treatment for growing pains. The good news is that growing pains don't cause other problems, and they don't affect growth. Growing pains often get better on their own within a year or two. And if they don't go away completely in a year or so, they often become less painful. In the meantime, you can help ease your child's discomfort with self-care measures, such as massaging your child's legs.
Lifestyle and home remedies
You can help ease your child's discomfort with these home remedies:
- Rub your child's legs. Children often respond to gentle massage. Others feel better when they're held or cuddled.
- Use a heating pad. Heat can help soothe sore muscles. Use a heating pad on a low setting before bedtime or when your child complains of leg pain. Remove the heating pad once your child falls asleep. A warm bath before bedtime may help, too.
- Try a pain reliever. Offer your child ibuprofen (Advil, Children's Motrin, others) or acetaminophen (Tylenol, others). Avoid aspirin, due to the risk of Reye's syndrome — a rare but serious condition linked to giving aspirin to children.
- Stretching exercises. Stretching the muscles in the legs during the day may help prevent pain at night. Ask your doctor what stretches might help.
Preparing for your appointment
Most children who have growing pains will not need to see a doctor. If the pain is persistent or unusual, you may want to bring your concerns to the attention of your family doctor or pediatrician.
What you can do
Before the appointment, you may want to write a list that answers the following questions:
- Where does the pain occur?
- Is there a certain time of day when the pain usually occurs?
- How long does the pain last?
- What, if anything, relieves the pain?
- Does the pain wake your child up at night or make it difficult to fall asleep?
- Has your child experienced any other signs or symptoms — such as swelling, redness, abdominal pain or headaches?
- Has your child recently started a new physical activity?
What to expect from your doctor
During the exam, your doctor may ask questions about your child's symptoms and activities. He or she will check your child's bones and muscles for signs of tenderness.
Aug. 19, 2016
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- Kliegman RM, et al. Musculoskeletal pain syndromes. In: Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 20th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Elsevier; 2016. http://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed Aug. 3, 2016.
- Uziel Y, et al. Five-year outcome of children with "growing pains": Correlations with pain threshold. Journal of Pediatrics. 2010;156:838.