Are Growing Pains Real?

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Are Growing Pains Real?

Watching your child grow up from a tiny infant to an energetic preteen is one of the greatest things about being a parent. As they grow older, they begin to look more like you and your partner...

Experts Still Don’t Know What Causes Growing Pains

Watching your child grow up from a tiny infant to an energetic preteen is one of the greatest things about being a parent. As they grow older, they begin to look more like you and your partner. They start learning more and more as they go to school, coming home to explain all they learned. Sports become a big part of their young lives as they join a multitude of different sports teams. They go from depending on you to becoming their own person and developing their independence.

However, not all parts of growing up are sunshine and rainbows. Some can be difficult for both parents and kids. Growing pains are an aspect of growing up that we wish children didn’t have to go through. No parent wants to see their little one experience any form of pain and discomfort. However, many children often do.

Growing pains are a confusing condition for many parents. Not much is known about what causes them and how they affect your child. In fact, there is no proof that suggests growth hurts your child. To help with any confusion, Tots N Teens Pediatrics would like to take this time to go over some vital facts about growing pains. Hopefully, some of this information answers your questions and helps you better care for your child.

What are Growing Pains? 

Growing pains are often characterized by aching or throbbing in your child’s legs. The pain is typically felt in the front of the legs on the thighs, in the calves, and behind the knees. Children feel pain in both of their legs. Growing pains usually occur when your child is around 3 to 5 years old and later in life when they are between 8 to 12 years old. Roughly 3-37% of children experience growing pains throughout their lives. Girls are also more likely to experience these pains, as well.

Typically, the pains will begin in the late afternoon or evening, often continuing into the night. The pain can become so bad for your child that it wakes them up in the middle of the night. However, each child’s pain varies. Some symptoms of growing pains include:

  • Pain felt in the muscles of the thighs, calves, and behind the knees of both legs
  • Occasionally, children may also experience abdominal pain and headaches
  • In the morning, the pain will usually be gone
  • Growing pains can last for just a few months or extend to a few years
  • Pain great enough to wake a child in the middle of the night

Growing pains typically won’t affect your child’s ability to play sports, be active, or do other day-to-day activities. However, if the pain persists in the morning or affects their quality of life, there may be a more serious issue that needs immediate attention. You should take your child to a doctor as soon as possible if your child’s pain is:

  • Persistent
  • Continues through the morning
  • Interferes with normal activities
  • Located in their joints or bones
  • Related to an injury
  • Coincides with swelling, tenderness, fever, limping, rash, fatigue, or weakness


Unfortunately, healthcare experts don’t entirely know what causes growing pains. There is no evidence to prove that growth spurts cause any real pain. Children only feel pain in the muscles of their legs, not in the bones or joints. Research has found that children who go through growing pains have considerably lower pain thresholds than those who don’t. This fact may play into the severity of the pain many children experience.

While healthcare experts don’t know the exact cause of growing pains, they have some theories. Many believe that growing pains are just muscle aches felt after intense physical activity, such as running, jumping, climbing, and more. Children’s muscles can’t handle the stress of physical activity.

Additionally, some experts believe growing pains may have a connection to restless leg syndrome, which causes an uncontrollable urge to move your legs. Even though doctors haven’t discovered a true cause for the condition, they do know that the pain is only temporary, and the condition isn’t serious.


If your child has been complaining about pain and has been woken by them, it’s important to visit your doctor to accurately diagnose the condition. During a child wellness exam, your child’s provider will be able to rule out any more serious conditions that may threaten their overall health. That is why it’s so important to bring them for an exam before you jump to conclusions.

The provider will ask your child questions about their pain and ask about their medical history, as well. Another vital way to diagnose growing pains is to see how your child reacts to being touched while in pain. Typically, those suffering from a serious medical condition will strongly dislike being touched. Movement and touch can increase pain. However, for those with this condition, they tend to feel better when they are touched or massaged.

Essentially, doctors refer to growing pains as a diagnosis of exclusion, which means that once other conditions have been ruled out, they can say whether your child has growing pains or not.


Once diagnosed, your child usually won’t require any medicine. Growing pains aren’t consistent. Your child can go days without experiencing them. However, when your child is in pain, there are several ways you can help relieve their pain, including:

  • Massaging the aching area
  • Stretching the legs
  • Placing a heating pad or warm towel on the painful area. Do not leave a heating pad on overnight to avoid any burning of the skin
  • Giving them over the counter pain medicine, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, with doctor’s permission

If your child’s pain persists even after these treatment options, seek medical attention as soon as possible. There may be a more serious issue going on.

All over the world, many children experience growing pains at one point or another. While the condition isn’t serious, it does cause your children serious discomfort and pain. If you suspect your child may be dealing with growing pains, bring them into Tots N Teens Pediatrics to receive an accurate diagnosis.