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Symptoms of Growing Pains

Question of the Week

By

Updated May 16, 2014

A boy clutching his leg in pain after an accident
Mieke Dalle/Photographer's Choice RF/Getty Images
Q. I have a son that is 4 years old and his legs have really been hurting him. They hurt all different times. I have given him Tylenol, Motrin, Advil, warm baths with lavender, massage, and nothing seems to help. He hasn't been sick or running a temp. Please help!! Anna, Sacramento, CA

A. This is a prime age when children begin to have growing pains, so that may be the cause, especially since he hasn't been sick and hasn't had a fever.

Children with growing pains typically have pain in their legs either late in the day or in the middle of the night. They can be particularly bad after a day of intense physical activity, but it really isn't known what causes them.

Other factors that can point to growing pains as a cause for a child's leg pain include that massaging the area helps, whereas if there was an injury or other medical condition causing the pain, touching or massaging the area would likely make the pain worse. Also, children with growing pains usually do not have any other symptoms, such as weight loss, limping, fever, or joint swelling, and the pain shouldn't limit his activity.

Growing pains also commonly occur:

  • in both legs
  • in the front of the thigh, the calf muscles, and muscles in the back of the knee
  • in children between the ages of 3 and 5 and then 8 and 12 years
  • in over 30 percent of children
Since 'nothing seems to help' your child, you likely need to see your Pediatrician for an evaluation. Although we often blame growing pains for leg pain, there are other conditions that can cause leg pain, and he may need some blood tests or an xray just to be sure that it really is growing pains.

If you mean that 'nothing seems to help' because the pain keeps coming back, then that is to be expected. If you are able to treat the pain when it occurs and he is then fine for some time until it begins again, then that can be normal, depending on how often it is happening. It may help to give him ibuprofen (Motrin or Advil) on those evenings that he has had a very active day, like after soccer practice, etc. to see if that keeps the pain from even starting that night. You shouldn't do that every night or even on most nights though without talking to your Pediatrician first though.

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