What are ‘growing pains’?

Growing pains are distinguished by aches or pains that are usually felt in the lower legs. It commonly occurs in children aged between 3 and 14 years old; the pains often come and go over months, and sometimes even years.

Experiencing growing pains can be very distressing for your child, but they are very common and do not cause any long-term harm. Despite the name, there is actually no clear evidence to link the pain to a period of growth so do not be concerned if your child is complaining of pains in their legs that fit the below description without any evidence of a growth spurt.

Common symptoms include:

  • Aching or throbbing sensation normally felt in both legs
  • The pain is typically felt in the muscles and not the joints
  • Often the pain starts in the evening and may wake your child during the night - this pain however should have settled by the morning
  • Pain with no sign or history of any physical injury or infection (i.e. heat or redness at the site of the pain)

How to help your child:

  • Gentle massage and rubbing of your child’s leg can help ease the discomfort
  • Warmth with often help ease muscle aches, a warm bath before bed or use a covered hot water bottle/heat pack can be very helpful in easing the pains
  • Wearing good fitting, supportive footwear with a firm heel can also help as this supports your child's feet in a good position
  • If needed, use of children’s ibuprofen or paracetamol can be helpful - please ensure to follow the instructions regarding correct use of this and if you are unsure if your child can take this ibuprofen/paracetamol please seek advice from your GP or pharmacist

Growing pains are often more common in children who are active and are especially more common after playing lots of sport.  It is however really important that your child does not stop playing sport and remains active - please see our being active section of the website for more information and the importance of this.

Children who have flexible joints (hypermobility, also known as double jointed) are thought to be more prone to experiencing growing pains. Again it is really important that your child remains active as this is the best long term management strategy for joint hypermobility, please see our section on joint hypermobility for further information and management advice regarding this. 

When to seek further advice and support:

Growing pains are very common and harmless and although they can be very painful for your child, they will typically resolve without medical intervention. However, we would recommend seeking further advice from your doctor if any of the following occur:

  • the pain is only in one leg
  • the pain routinely carries on the next morning/into the day
  • the pain is bad enough to affect daytime physical activity, stops your child walking or makes them limp
  • the pain is in a joint, such as their knees or ankles
  • there's a rash, swelling or unusual bruising on the leg
  • your child has a high temperature
  • your child does not want to eat or is losing weight

If you remain concerned about your child please click on this link to refer into the service, you will then receive a telephone call from a member of the team to discuss your concerns further and organise an assessment as appropriate.