Growing pains, I would just like to add a collective sigh for everyone involved. These are going to be a source of “pain” for everyone, be that the child, parent, and doctor. They are definitely causing pain to your child; they are the ones who are crying. The parents are going to suffer from a lack of sleep and watching their children suffer. The doctor is left with trying to figure out if this is something that is a normal part of growing or if is it something more serious. Let’s see if we can’t answer some of the “why” questions about growing pains.
Calling a “growing pain” a “bone pain” is not correct. Yes, it is common that growing pains happen during times a child is experiencing rapid growth. However, the pain is not coming from the actual bone. Typically these pains occur between the ages of 2-6 and again from 9-12, usually, right about the times when you as a parent have gotten back into a routine of blissful sleep. Unfortunately for you as the parent these are almost always going to happen in the middle of the night.
There seem to be two different causes of this pain. The first is some sort of damage. Kids are not always nice to their bodies and have a tendency to think they are indestructible. The side effect of running, jumping, climbing, falling, and crashing into things is that our body hurts. Sleep is more than just a time to rest; it is also its time to heal. Sometimes healing hurts, leading to middle-of-the-night shouts of pain. The second reason goes back to the misnomer of “bone pain.” The bones are growing fast and they are growing faster than the muscles and tendons. With three different types of body parts all growing at different times and paces all having to stretch and pull to catch up. This hurts.
Every parent has heard the story of a kid with severe growing pains that were misdiagnosed and ended up with a bone tumor. For doctors, this type of story is our nightmare. So, how do we know growing pains are just pains and not something worse? This is when it is important for you and your child’s doctor to have a conversation. Bone tumors are usually solitary. Consistent pain in one location over time is usually a warning sign something could be wrong. Warmth and or swelling in an area are important signs and something that should be told to your doctor as those could be signs of something else. Random pain across the body at different times without warmth or swelling is usually just a random growing pain or muscle ache.
If your child is having what you believe are growing pains talk to your doctor, massage the area, offer some ibuprofen, apply a heating pad, and provide a little bit of calming reassurance that this will pass soon enough. These frustrating pains will run for a week or so. Suddenly you’ll be standing, looking the kid in the eye and wondering what all the fuss was about those many years ago.