Causes of Growing Pains in Children? What is the Prognosis

Growing pains are generally achy and cramping leg pain mostly observed in children between the ages of 3 to 10 years. At least 15 to 30 percent of children are known to complain of growing pain. This pain usually occurs during late afternoon and evening and often the child wakes up from sleep due to this pain at night.

Growing pain is mostly felt in legs in front of thigh, behind knee joint and in calf muscles. The exact cause of growing pain is not known. It is believed to develop due to excessive physical activity of the child. Growing pain does not occur daily and it comes and goes. It becomes worse after the child spend very active day. Normally growing pain is diagnosis of exclusion. This means all other probable causes of pain in legs or arm are excluded before diagnosing the pain to be labeled as growing pain. Treatment consists of reassurance. If the symptoms are severe than gentle massage, heat and muscle stretching is beneficial.
The prognosis of growing pain is good. After a period of time, it will get resolved.

Cause of Growing Pain:

Children between 3 years and 12 years are physically most active. Growing pain often occurs during this age. The exact cause of growing pain in children is not known, but is usually linked with extreme physical activity during the day. Often jump, run, climb and play sports but because of low threshold of pain, they do not pay much attention until they are immobile. Researchers have found pain in such children occur when they indulge is rigorous sports activity during daytime. The muscles of such children may not be able to take on the pressure of playing sports or any other strenuous physical activity at this tender age. However, growing pain has nothing to do with growth spurt of the child. Parents must not discourage the child from playing because of pain, because the pain vanishes after the growth period.

Symptoms of Growing Pain:

Growing pain in every child may appear differently. Some children complain of severe pain while pain in some children is mild and the child may not realize it. The pain is aching and cramping in nature. It comes and goes and it is not regular. Pain usually occurs in legs but sometimes the child may also complain of aching pain in arms. Pain usually is experienced in the late evening or at bedtime often pain wakes up child from sleep. Growing pain is usually in front of thighs, behind the knee and in calf muscles. Usually the pain occurs in both the legs. Pain disappears in morning. Growing pain does not interfere in sports activity of the child. There may be associated symptoms along with growing pain such as headache and abdominal pain.

Diagnosis and Treatment:

Diagnosis of growing pain is usually done by the doctor after all excluding all other probable causes of pain. The doctor takes medical history and does proper clinically examination the child before he confirms the diagnosis. In rare cases the doctor may recommend blood test or X-ray.

The treatment of growing pain in the child depends on its severity. In majority of cases reassurance and some home remedies are all that is needed. If the pain is severe and regular, interrupting nighttime sleep, a dose of mild painkiller may be recommended by the doctor before doing to bed. Parents must never give medications without consulting the pediatrician as some painkillers are considered to be harmful for children.

Home Remedies:

Most children feel better from home remedies for their growing pain.

  • Massage: Soothing massage on the affected leg is extremely beneficial. Massage with slightly warm oil. You can add few drops of lavender essential oil in the massage oil for more comfort and relax.
  • Heat and warmth: Place heating pad or warm water bottle over the painful area. It will help to relieve aches and pains.
  • Healthy food: The child must eat healthy food containing vitamins and minerals. Both vitamin B 6 and magnesium are beneficial for reducing episodes of growing pain.
  • Muscle stretches: Muscle stretching in the morning helps to reduce painful episodes of growing pain at night.


Growing pain is temporary and it goes away after few months or years. However, if it is severe interfering sleep or physical activity the child may need medical treatment.