"My 7 year-old wakes up in the middle of night crying that she has pain in her legs. Initially I used to be very worried but later when my pediatrician explained to me that it is a part of growing up and very normal that I sighed with relief," says Anu Navani. But how can such pain be normal? "Yes it is" says Dr Shekhar Vashisth, Consultant, Pediatrician, Moolchand Medcity. "In medical language we call this pain 'Idiopathic Limp Pain'. It is commonly known as growing pain and is common between the ages of 3-8 years amongst boys more than in girls. It normally strikes either during early childhood or it can also be seen in children up to adolescence," stages also" adds Dr Vashisth.
Though a number of theories and hypothesis explain growing pain but medical science is yet to find the real cause of it. Some believe that it due to the growth of the bones or some support the theory that the normal jumping and running around done by children or athletic activities cause the tender bones to ache. Some say that the pain is the result of the mechanical factors such as joint misalignment or children involved in vigorous exercise beyond their body capacity. "There is no universally agreed cause to the growing pain in medical history. It is generally believed that the bones stretch and grow, stretching the slower growing muscles and putting pressure on the part of the bone the muscles are attached to," says Dr Vashisth.
Whatever be the origin, the pain is for real. Parents should keep in mind that children don't usually lie about pain. If your naughty son complains about pain in the evenings, he is not making an excuse for not doing his home work. He is really in pain.
"Growing pain is a 'no signs' pain. There is no objective physical findings or laboratory findings, no joint manifestations or any swelling tenderness or redness. Symptoms though vary from child to child," says Dr Vashisth. The growing pain always concentrate on the muscles. Generally pain occurs in the thighs, behind knees, calves. It should be noted that joints during the growing pains appear normal. "One in ten children who are normal experience this pain. This pain occurs mostly in early evenings or late night. Some can even wake up in between sleep from this pain. Some kids get very severe growing pain whereas for some it hits subtly. This pain may not ocuur everyday," adds Dr Vashisth.
o Moving the painful area doesn't make the pain better or worse.
o The pain might occur either every day of the week or occasionally
o The pain is worse in the night mostly when the child is fast asleep.
o The pain is gone by morning.
o The pain never causes a limp or disrupts normal movements.
o There might complaints of arm pain and headaches as well.
One of the most helpful ways to find out growing pain is the response to touch. In case of growing pain the child feels better when they are massaged, held or cuddled unlike when suffering from serious medical illness the child does not like to be touched or moved as movement increases the pain.
"Growing pain is not a disease. So there is no treatment as such except for reassurance," says Dr Vashisth. Stretching, Massaging the area or hot water bag reduces the pain.
"If the pain is very severe giving paracetamol or ibuprofen helps," prescribes the doctor.
Otherwise, for a change this pain is part of growing up. Don't panic either if your child is not experiencing growing pain. That's perfectly normal too. Relax, support and reassure your child and this painful phase will pass on the child grows up.
Dr Vashisth warns "If the following are noticed in your child then don't mistake it to be growing pain. Seek medical help immediately.
o Swelling, redness, persistent pain or pain in the morning.
o Injury pain , fever with pain or limping.
o Rashes , tiredness, weakness or any uncalled for behaviour".
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