Growing pains in children
- Growing pains in children might sometimes be difficult for parents to understand. You may find your child with painful bumps and bruises from all the running, jumping, and climbing that growing children do, or sometimes they may complain of pain in their legs without any obvious cause – often called "growing pains."
- Here, we share some information about a few common examples of growing pains in children. The bad news? Children’s growing pain symptoms can make them uncomfortable. The good news? There is suitable relief for these pains!
Types of aches and pains
- Growing pains
- Bumps and bruises
- More physical activity than usual
- Poor posture
- Emotional upset
Growing pains in children
So, what are growing pains in kids? The term ‘growing pain’ refers to harmless, recurrent muscular pain that is common in children. You may see growing pains in toddlers, particularly those aged 3-5 years, or in older children especially between 8-11 years old, with some lasting into the teenage years.†
They’re often felt in the legs and can be worse in the afternoon or evenings, sometimes even waking a child from their sleep .1 But while they can be very painful, there is no actual damage happening to your child’s bones or muscles, and the pain shouldn’t cause a limp or make it hard to run or play normally.
†Better Health Channel (Department of Health, State Government of Victoria, Australia). Growing pains. Available here.
What do ‘growing pains’ feel like?
If your child complains of achy pains in the muscles of their legs, they might be experiencing growing pains symptoms. This can include:
Muscular aches and pains felt in both legs, like the front of the thighs and their calves. Your child may also feel growing pains in knees but in the back of the knees rather than the joint itself (so moving the leg doesn’t affect the pain). The muscles of the arms are only occasionally affected.
Pain that comes and goes, e.g., every night for a week or so, or a few times a week, or only occasionally – the important thing is that it is not persistent. Pain may last from a few minutes to hours and occur on and off for several years.
If you are concerned in any way, see your doctor. You should also see your doctor if:
- Your child is limping
- They complain of pain during the day
- The pain only affects one leg(or arm)
- Their pain is severe
- They are unwell (e.g., fever, loss of appetite or rashes)
- Their leg is sore to touch, or has swelling, reddening or tenderness
Causes of growing pains
While many parents may think that growing pains are caused by the growth of bones, the cause is actually unknown and bone growth hasn’t been proven to cause the pain. Some reasons that may contribute to children’s growing pain symptoms include:
More physical activity than usual
Children’s muscles may get tired and sore if they move more than usual, though this doesn’t affect most children
Children who stand, sit or walk awkwardly may put greater strain on the supporting muscles of their body
Stress or unhappiness may trigger aches and pains, though this doesn’t affect most children
Can growing pains cause fever? Growing pain should not make your child feel unwell or affect the way they walk. So, if your child feels unwell and/or has a fever, or they are limping, you should see a doctor.
How to relieve growing pains in legs
If you are looking for growing pains treatment or are trying to figure out how to help relieve growing pains in children, here are some things you can try to comfort your child:
A gentle leg massage using massage oils can distract your child from their growing pain symptoms and make them feel special
Try placing a heat pack on the painful area or running your child a warm bath
Use medicines that reduce pain, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen
Give your child plenty of cuddles and reassurance that the growing pains will go away
Other common aches and pains in children: Bumps and bruises
Children often injure themselves while playing, like falling over while playing sport or bumping into something. If you see swelling or discolouration, it might be a bump or a bruise.
Bumps can appear following a knock or fall. Bruises occur if the blood vessel under your child’s skin is damaged, forming a purple or red mark as blood comes out of the vessels.
Bumps and bruises are common injuries that everyone will experience from time to time. Occasionally though, your child’s bump or bruise may be a more serious injury. Seek medical attention if you are concerned about your child’s injury for any reason, or if:
● Your child has intense pain
● They can’t move the injured body part, or it doesn’t work properly
● The injury is swelling and bruising very quickly
How to relieve bumps and bruises
While bumps, knocks and bruises can be painful, they are usually easy to treat. You can try to soothe your child’s pain by:
Rest the injured area
Ice with a cold pack, or ice wrapped in a cloth
Compress with a firm (but not tight) bandage
Elevating it if possible
If necessary, you can also use an appropriate pain reliever containing ibuprofen, like Nurofen for Children.
Why ibuprofen can help
Ibuprofen reduces both inflammation and mild-to-moderate pain. It can help make growing pain symptoms in children less severe and help them feel more comfortable. Ibuprofen can relieve muscular aches and pains, including pain from injuries.
Why Nurofen for Children can help your child
Nurofen for Children contains ibuprofen. It comes in a variety of formulations and can be used in children from 3 months to 12 years. Nurofen for Children liquid suspensions are sugar-free and colour-free and can be taken without food. For older kids, Nurofen for Children also comes as a soft chewable capsule suitable for children 7 years and older – they are easy to chew and don’t need to be taken with water, making them a convenient option.
Frequently Asked Questions
Always read the label. Use only as directed. Incorrect use could be harmful. If symptoms persist, see your healthcare professional. Do not use if you or your child have a stomach ulcer. Do not give to babies under 3 months of age. Seek medical advice for children under 12 months of age. Reckitt Benckiser, Auckland. RB-M-06866. TAPS NP19389.
- Better Health Channel. Growing pains. Available at: https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/growing-pains (accessed Dec 2022).
- Health Direct. Bumps, knocks and bruises. Available at: https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/bumps-knocks-and-bruises (accessed Dec 2022).