Vivian Grisogono

Growing pains

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What are "growing pains"?
Q: A lot of kids at the centre where I teach are complaining of “growing pains” at the moment. I asked how they knew their problems were “growing pains”, they said their physio told them. Can a physio tell if a problem “growing pains”, especially with the knee where the bone grows first, causing the ligament to pull on the tibial tubercle causing pain (which is so similar to Osgood Schlatters) . Should this be treated any differently than Osgood Schlatters, if it’s to do with the growing?
Tennis coach, 23, UK

 A: Growing pains, in the generally accepted definition, are pains which occur as  a kind of gnawing aching, usually in the line of long bones, most often in the lower legs. They occur during childhood, from about 5-6-7 onwards. They very often happen at night. They're not associated with an injury, and the cause is usually not obvious. They can be very intense (I've known a perfectly sensible child scream with the pain, having asked his father for permission to do so). If they are that severe and they persist for any time, a paediatric specialist should investigate, in case there is some disease process going on. (The child who screamed was investigated fully by recognized medical experts, no problem of any kind was found, and after this painful phase had passed he grew up perfectly normally and has been able to enjoy sports to the full.)

Growing pains are linked to bone growth, but not every child gets them. They are not inevitable just because a child is growing. There are always causative factors, mainly linked to dietary factors, sometimes to illnesses which have affected the immune system. Very often, the child is not drinking enough plain water , so this has to be corrected. Quite often the diet is not adequate, causing deficiencies and/or imbalance of necessary nutrients. Refined sugar and fizzy drinks must be left out, (because they have a bad effect on the body’s calcium, which is essential for healthy bone growth).

Pain associated with movement, sport and activities does not fall into the definition of "growing pains", although most childhood overuse injuries are associated with growth, as well as some traumatic injuries. It is easy to confuse the expressions "injuries associated with growth periods" and "growing pains", but they are very different. So problems like Osgood-Schlatter’s condition are quite distinct from “growing pains”, and are therefore treated differently.