Is Pain Normal in Young Age Groups?

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!

Published by

Dr. Hemlata Gupta

Executive Physiotherapist Physio Active, Gurgaon