Does Your Child Have Growing Pains??

This page is provided by Thomas J. A. Lehman MD

Delivering the best care - with great care

 Dr. Lehman is the author of many textbook chapters and articles on the care of children and young adults with arthritis and related conditions.  He practices in New York City.  Click here for more information about Dr. Lehman or the Hospital for Special Surgery.

   BE SURE your child is getting the care they need.  Do you have questions about medications, lab tests, dealing with schools, teachers, family and friends, insurance companies, finding the best doctor?  There’s too much to put it all here on the web.  Many more answers you need are in my book (see below or click here).

 

 

    Whenever a child complains that an arm or leg hurts everyone’s first thought is an injury.  Even if a child is old enough to deny an injury, parents often assume that the child just doesn’t remember what happened.  When the pain continues beyond a few days parents often dismiss the complaints as growing pains.  They only seek medical attention if the child is in severe pain or having obvious difficulties.  Unfortunately this is often wrong.

 

     Growing pains typically occur in young children.  They wake up from sleep complaining of pain.  Parents become aware of the problem when they hear the child crying.  Most often growing pains occur in the first few hours after the child has gone to sleep.  Typically a child will point to the front or back of the knee, or the muscles just above the knee.  The pain will usually disappear with ten or fifteen minutes of gentle massage to the area and be completely gone in the morning.  The pain is always in a large joint like the knee or ankle.  Sometimes the pains will wake the child up two or three nights in a row, but more often they occur episodically over a period of weeks or months.  They may disappear for months or a year only to start up again.

     The key finding for growing pains is that the child is absolutely fine when they wake up in the morning.  There is no pain, no limping, or any other abnormality in the morning.  Whenever pain is still present when the child wakes up in the morning or occurs while the child is awake, it must not be dismissed as  ‘growing pains.’

     For a child with typical growing pains a trip to the doctor is not usually necessary.  However, if the pains are persistent or unusually severe a medical examination is warranted.  A child with growing pains should have absolutely normal blood tests and X-rays.  Bone scans, MRIs and other special tests are not indicated for a child with growing pains.  However, they may be necessary to exclude other causes of pain in children who have atypical findings.

    There are a variety of explanations for growing pains.  There is evidence that the body produces more growth hormone at night, and some doctors believe the body is actually growing faster at night leading to the pain.  Surprisingly growing pains tend to run in families.  If one of your children is having a lot of growing pains ask your parents and your spouse’s parents.  It’s likely one of you also had a lot of growing pains.

    Growing pains can be disturbing to both parents and children.  The first step is to be sure that, “It’s just growing pains.”  Most often gentle massage and reassurance are enough to help the child get back to sleep.  Children with more severe pain usually will respond to a dose of acetaminophen or ibuprofen just as you would treat them for a headache during the day.   If they have been waking up with pain several nights in a row, it may be helpful to give them a dose of medication at bed time.  This will decrease the perception of pain and may prevent the child from awakening.  After two or three nights without episodes the medication should be stopped.  If the pains persist despite medication or return as soon as the medication is stopped, a full medical evaluation should be done.

     Growing pains will go away.  They may come back when the child goes through another period of rapid growth, but they never stay.  While inconvenient they are not of any long term significance.  They do not interfere with proper growth or development.  If you think your child might have a more serious condition, consult your doctor.  If you’re not getting the answers you need you may find more help in my book -- see below.

 

   BE SURE your child is getting the care they need.  Do you have questions about medications, lab tests, dealing with schools, teachers, family and friends, insurance companies, finding the best doctor?  There’s too much to put it all here on the web.  Many more answers you need are in my book (see below or click here).

 

 

My book –click here to order at a discount from Amazon.com!!

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Reviewers comments

    Dr. Tom Lehmans experience and compassion are evident on every page of this book, and they help guide the readerchild, parent, and healthcare professional alike through the world of childhood arthritis.  This book is an absolute gem written with a single goal in mind:  improve the lives of kids with arthritis. -- Jack Klippel, M.D. President and CEO of the Arthritis Foundation

 

     Dr. Lehman has given parents and families of children with arthritis the first book that speaks to the parent and child as equals.  His book explains the illnesses, the medications, the lab tests, and the disease course in simple, understandable lay language and givens them valuable insight into how a pediatric rheumatologist thinks.  Bravo!-- Charles Spencer, M.D., Professor of Clinical Pediatrics, University of Chicago, La Rabida

It’s not just growing pains.
A guide to childhood muscle, bone, and joint pain,
rheumatic diseases and the latest treatments

 

Click here to see the table of contents

 

It has always been a frustration trying to answer the many questions I have received from people over the web.  I can’t take the time and give them the detail I would like to.  I have to take care of my patients.  This book is a distillation of my experience answering questions for parents and health professionals over 25 years of practice.  If you want to know about the diseases, the tests, the medications, or how to be sure you are getting the best care– If you are the family member of a child with joint pains, this book will give you the answers.  If you are a general physician, a pediatrician, or a nurse who cares for children with these diseases it will answer many of the questions families ask you, and you can recommend it to them.  It will also answer many of your questions about what shots to give, what precautions to take, and the other questions families, pediatricians, and other health care providers have asked me over the years.

 

Dr. Lehman is the author of many textbook chapters and articles on the care of children and young adults with rheumatic diseases including SLE, JRA, dermatomyositis, scleroderma, Kawasaki disease and related conditions.  He practices in New York City.  Click here for more information about Dr. Lehman or the Hospital for Special Surgery.

Click here if you are interested in making an appointment to see Dr. Lehman

 

Click for BOOKS dealing with childhood rheumatic diseases

This site provided by Thomas J. A. Lehman MD
Chief, Division of Pediatric Rheumatology
The Hospital for Special Surgery
535 E 70 St,
New York, NY 10021
212-606-1151, fax 212-606-1938, e-mail goldscout@aol.com

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Last update 9/01/04