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Growing Pains

Updated: Oct 10, 2023

Are growing pains real?

The short answer is that yes, growing pains are a real and usually harmless part of childhood.

Though poorly understood, they are recognized as a common phenomenon occurring most

often between the ages of 3 and 12. The pain is commonly felt in both legs, particularly at

night with no clear cause of pain. As yet no one is able to explain why they happen but

growing pains are thought to be a normal response of a growing body as it adapts to new

heights, sizes, strengths and skills.

Does this mean I can ignore my child's pain?

Not so fast. While growing pains are harmless and usually transient, there are many

childhood illnesses and conditions that do require professional assessment and, if left

untreated, can cause serious harm. These include but are not limited to; Juvenile arthritis,

childhood cancers (which often first present as knee or jaw pain), developmental hip

dysplasia (abnormality of the hip joint), Perthes disease and a variety of other

musculoskeletal disorders.

While it’s true that children are generally more resilient and heal well, they are also

vulnerable to injuries just like adults. All serious strains and sprains should be rehabilitated

correctly to ensure no long-term problems occur down the track. Many childhood pains can

also be relieved with physiotherapy in the short term even if the child will eventually grow

out of the pain.

How can I tell if pain is abnormal?

Unfortunately, unless you are a trained professional you won't be able to tell. If there is any

doubt in your mind always contact a physiotherapist or doctor. Many clinicians have great

respect for a parent’s intuition and acknowledge that parents are usually very good at

knowing if something is wrong with their child.

Even if you’re sure nothing is wrong, there are a few signs and symptoms that you should

take particular notice of. pain that is severe, pain that occurs suddenly without an obvious

cause, pain that is one sided, pain that affects your child’s activity levels, causes a limp or is

associated with signs of general illness/fever.

Constant, severe and unrelenting pain is a serious sign that should be investigated at any age.

If you’re worried, the first step is to consult a physiotherapist or general practitioner.

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