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What a Pain! Kids and Growing Pains

If you can read this on your own, you can probably turn on the faucet to brush your teeth. And if you can reach the faucet, it's a good bet you can get your own drinking glass from a kitchen cabinet.

These are all signs that you're getting bigger and growing up. But for some kids, growing up comes with something doctors call growing pains.

What Are Growing Pains?

Growing pains aren't a disease. You probably won't have to go to the doctor for them. But they can hurt. Usually they happen when kids are between the ages of 3 and 5 or 8 and 12. Doctors don't believe that growing actually causes pain, but growing pains stop when kids stop growing. By the teen years, most kids don't get growing pains anymore.

Kids get growing pains in their legs. Most of the time they hurt in the front of the thighs (the upper part of your legs), in the calves (the back part of your legs below your knees), or behind the knees. Usually, both legs hurt.

Growing pains often start to ache right before bedtime. Sometimes you go to bed without any pain, but you might wake up in the middle of the night with your legs hurting. The best news about growing pains is that they go away by morning.

What Causes Growing Pains?

Growing pains don't hurt around the bones or joints (the flexible parts that connect bones and let them move) — only in the muscles. For this reason, some doctors believe that kids might get growing pains because they've tired out their muscles. When you run, climb, or jump a lot during the day, you might have aches and pains in your legs at night.

What Can I Do to Feel Better?

Your parent can help your growing pains feel better by giving you an over-the-counter pain medicine like acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Kids should not take aspirin because it can cause a rare but serious illness called Reye syndrome.

Here are three other things that might help you feel better:

  1. placing a heating pad on the spot where your legs hurt
  2. stretching your legs like you do in gym class
  3. having your parent massage your legs

When to Go to the Doctor

If you have a fever, are limping when you walk, or your leg looks red or is swollen (puffed up), your parent should take you to the doctor. Growing pains should not keep you from running, playing, and doing what you normally do. If the pain is bothering you during the day, talk to your parent about it.

You might never feel any growing pains, but if you do, remember that before you know it, you will outgrow them!

Reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: July 2012

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Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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