Children with Intermittent Pain in the Extremities

    What to do about those annoying growing-up ailments?

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     What to do about those annoying growing-up ailments?

    It is very common for children to manifest pain in their limbs without having suffered a fall or tripped over an object. This causes concern and uncertainty in parents even when the doctor after examining tells them to leave it alone referring to the growing pains.

    What are growing pains and why are they called that?

    There is no evidence that bone growth causes pain, which could be related to physical activity by children. Between three and twelve years of age, and within this group, most often between three and five years, and then between eight and twelve.

    1 in 5 children has this type of discomfort. It is a recurrent, bilateral pain, usually in the lower extremities (legs, thighs, the back of the knees, not in the joints), some manifest pain in the arms, but it is not common. The pain appears between the afternoon and night, usually lasts between 30 minutes to 2 hours, is of variable intensity and can wake the child during the night, but disappear the next morning.

    It is important to emphasize that this happens in the absence of a musculoskeletal pathology that can explain them; It has been called growth pain because it begins in childhood and disappears when adult life is reached, but not because it affects growth or is related to bone growth. There are no definite causes, only proposed theories that attempt to explain it.

    Anatomical Factors

    It refers to postural and orthopedic alterations, deformity in the foot structure such as valgus flat feet could cause alteration in balance, fatigue and muscle tension. But then children without deformity in the structure of their feet can also have these pain?


    When after a physical activity, waste products accumulate within the muscles of the extremities, at night when resting, the muscle relaxes and pain occurs.


    Family predisposition for pain susceptibility. Psychosocial factors that cause emotions to be poorly managed and there is a lower pain threshold for some people.

    Bone growth

    Accelerated growth at night, that stretching could be the cause of the pain. But really like the growth rate it is so gradual many disagree.

    Bottom line

    The important thing, dear parents, is that when your child tells you that he/she feels intermittent pain in the extremities, even if it is mild, it is necessary to visit the pediatrician. If the characteristics of the pain are compatible with growing pains, a normal physical examination and pain-free during the day, no further testing is necessary. The prognosis is generally benign, it tends to disappear with age.

    What can be done to help these children?

    – After intense physical activity, stretching after exercise can prevent the appearance of growing pains, also gentle massages help to relax the muscles.

    – Applying local heat, and even taking a warm bath at night can help.

    – The use of pain relievers such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen.

    – Postural alteration, valgus flat foot. It is corrected with templates or orthotics.

    – If required, the pediatrician will indicate vitamin D, since its lack causes bone pain.

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