Has your kid ever complained of unbearable leg pain and you got up in the middle of the night, worrying about it, all panicked and confused as to what to do and help the child go back to sleep?

As a Physical Therapist, I’m often asked by the concerned parents about the pains in young age groups, whether they are normal or not? Should they worry about it? Should they seek any help? And when exactly?

To burst your first myth, you should be happy to learn that some pains at certain age and in specific areas are growth related and just as normal as your exercise pain.

Further, a step towards understanding the physiology of any pain, one must remember:

“Pain is an unpleasant sensation, but it is necessary and one of the protective mechanisms of our body”

It acts as an early warning system that something is causing or may cause damage to the body. But you need to realize when is it normal and to what extent should we ignore it.

Although there is no evidence that growth in children causes pain, but a great range of pains are seen in childhood while growing up, which are not alarming and are just normal.

Growing Pains aren’t a disease. They are the most common form of childhood physical pains which occur mostly at two stages of growing up: 2-5 years & 8-12 years. They can hurt but it’s not necessary to visit a doctor, these pains actually stop when kids stop growing.

A normal child complains of painful calf, shin, thighs or back side of the knees, usually affecting both legs. To differ these pains from other abnormal ones they never affect the joints.

They mostly occur before the bed time or sometimes in the middle of the night. The intensity can vary from mild to very severe. Child is absolutely fine when he or she wakes up in the morning.

Although these pains often occur after increased activities, especially during growth spurts, causes for this syndrome is not known.

There are few factors that are seen to be associated with it:

  1. Low pain threshold/ cncreased sensitivity to pain
  2. Decreased bone strength
  3. Improper oxygenation of tissues
  4. Hyperflexible joints
  5. Family environment
  6. Metabolic muscle disease, restless leg syndrome, etc.

What can you do to make the child feel better?

Normally, following steps should be enough to help them get back to sleep:

  1. Heating pad on the painful & sore spots.
  2. Gentle massage on legs.
  3. Gentle stretching exercises.
  4. Re-assurance to the child.

If severe pain persists several nights in a row, over the counter pain medicine or NSAIDs should be given as would be prescribed for normal headache during the day.

Calcium intake, Vitamin D supplements, healthy diet and good hydration also prove to be helpful in preventing such pains.

What if it is something other than the Growing Pain? How will you come to know?

Check for following signs & symptoms:

  1. Pain during the day
  2. History of fever
  3. Abnormal walk or limping
  4. Pain in joints and muscles
  5. Redness or swelling
  6. Difficulty in Running, Playing & other normal activities

If a child shows the above symptoms, consult a health care professional immediately. Certain blood tests, X-rays, bone scans and other findings might be required to know the exact cause, and guide treatment accordingly.

A little education helps save unnecessary panic and bring a better understanding about one’s body.

Growing age brings a lot of mood swings and associated psychological patterns too. Pain behavior and threshold is often associated with this psychology. As parents – patience is required, a lot of love and support for your child as well. Re-assurance is the key.

Happy Learning!

Osteoarthritis (OA) is one of the most devastating chronic conditions that affect people around the world. It is the most common type of arthritis seen in all age groups.

OA being a progressive joint disease in which cartilage that serves as a cushion between the joints break down and bony overgrowth occurs, resulting in stiffness and pain in joint for many.

It is considered to be the disease of the old age. But, the number of arthritic cases rapidly rising among younger population seen in the recent times indicate that it is no more an age related process.

Infact, studies show that 12% of population in age group 25-74 years is found to be having clinically defined OA of some joint.

Arthritic changes start long before its symptoms show up in the form of pain and stiffness in the joints with radiographic changes. There is another study that says that, by the age of 65, more than half of us will have X- ray evidence of OA.

OA being the number 1 source of pain in older population worries most of us. Various studies are focused on prevention of arthritis in young age. But, as they say, you can’t prevent developing OA if you live long. Fortunately, we can surely delay it a long time if we take care of certain things in our lifestyle, especially when we are young.

Various contributing factors in the development of OA:

  1. Heredity- An inherited defect in one of the genes responsible for making cartilage.
  2. Obesity- Increases the risk for osteoarthritis of the knee, hip and spine
  3. Injury- Broken bones, injuries or repeated injuries
  4. Joint Overuse- Repeated overuse activities put the joint to early wear and tear
  5. Other diseases- Inflammatory joint disease, like Rheumatoid Arthritis

Few very early signs of OA if noticed well in time can help you manage the severity of changes and most importantly delay the progression of symptoms. In early advancement, certain symptoms like Crunching in joint/ joints, stiffness or diminished range of motion and dull ache deep in the joint may come and go away. But as changes progress, these signs and symptoms become more prominent and start affecting one’s everyday life.

If you can just follow these six steps right now, you can surely prevent osteoarthritis or its progression.

No. 1: Control Weight- Maintaining an optimal weight. Weight loss of even 5% of body weight in overweight and obese population decreases stress on the knees, hips, and lower back

No. 2: Exercise- Getting  involved in some kind of physical activity like low impact Biking, Swimming, Yoga, Pilates, non-stressful Weight lifting or Brisk Walking on smooth surfaces with comfortable shoes help maintain and improve muscle capacity

No. 3: Avoid Injuries or Get Them Treated- Timely intervention of treatment and proper rehabilitation post injuries help joints get back the structures to their normal, thus preventing any unwanted damage to the joints

No. 4: Eat Right- Maintaining a healthy diet and food habits keeps the bones, ligaments, muscles and other joint structures nourished and less prone to breakage

No. 5: Biomechanical Correction of faults- Posture and ergonomic care of the body in all activities and correction of any abnormal joint mechanics can save multitude of damage from internal or external trauma

No. 6: Proper Supplements- Vitamin D, calcium supplements can be taken regularly after certain age on advise of a physician. Chondroitin and glucosamine have no positive impact on joint pains but are claimed to be effective in diminishing the deterioration of joint cartilage

“Prevention is better than cure”, they say.

“If you are watchful today, the future will be bright” is the hope we all should keep for our better pain free half life.