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Growing Pains

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Last updated June 11, 2022

Growing pains quiz

Take a quiz to find out what's causing your pain.

Growing pains quiz

Take a quiz to find out what's causing your pain.

Take growing pains quiz

What are growing pains?

Growing pains are the aches or throbs that occur in children, and affect the legs including the thigh, calves, and the area behind the knees. They often occur after exercise or at night. They are called growing pains because they usually affect the arms and legs—the limbs that show the most obvious evidence of growth.

Most often, they occur in children during the period of dramatic growth between ages 6 and 10. Despite the name of this condition, there is no research to support the idea that the growth process causes pain.

Symptoms

Usually growing pains occur in both legs. These pains usually occur deep in the thigh or calf. Your child may complain of pains in the legs or arms that range in quality from vague discomfort and aching during times of rest to more severe pain that can make sleep difficult.

If the pain is severe or if your child has other symptoms, call your doctor, who may want to rule out other causes.

Treatment

If your child is experiencing pains in just one leg, consider bringing them for medical evaluation. One-sided leg pain may mean an infection, musculoskeletal injury or deformity, or other conditions such as a tumor.

Though there is no treatment for growing pains, let your child know that you believe the pains are real and that you sympathize. Reassure them that the pains are very common in children of the same age and that they always go away. You can help your child relax by massaging his or her arms and legs.

Share your story
Dr. Rothschild has been a faculty member at Brigham and Women’s Hospital where he is an Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. He currently practices as a hospitalist at Newton Wellesley Hospital. In 1978, Dr. Rothschild received his MD at the Medical College of Wisconsin and trained in internal medicine followed by a fellowship in critical care medicine. He also received an MP...
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