Could My Child Have Growing Pains?

Question

My 3-year old daughter is always complaining of pains in her legs during the night, could these be growing pains?
Shelly West – Kamiah, Indiana

Dr. Greene's Answer

During childhood, the human body goes through an amazing series of changes. When babies are born their heads, hands, and feet are proportionally much larger in relation to their bodies than at any other time in life. It’s one of the things that make babies distinct and adorable. Throughout the growing up process, the human body changes proportions many, many times. Sometimes long, gangly arms and legs seem to shoot out over night! During these spurts of growth, children often complain of nighttime leg pain, hence the common label growing pains.

Most often, growing pains will feel like a sharp throbbing pain. The pain can occasionally even be strong enough to wake the child up from sleep. About 25 to -40% of children between the ages of 3 to 5 and again between the ages of 8 and 12 experience growing pains (Healthy Children, AAP, June 2010).

When children are plagued by episodes of recurrent, brief leg pain, it is a good idea for them to be checked once by a physician. If the physical examination is normal, with no redness, tenderness, swelling, or limitation of movement, and if the pain is not provoked by moving or associated with any abnormal gait, then this situation is what we often call growing pains. These pains typically occur at night with no resultant daytime disability. The actual source of the pain has never been proven, but long experience has taught us that they are benign and self-limited.

If the physical examination is not normal or the pain is associated with other symptoms, your doctor will be able to discuss in more detail other potential diagnoses such as chronic trauma, infection, restless leg syndrome, and childhood arthritis.

In children with benign growing pains, the muscles or tendons are still a little too tight for the growing long bones. Muscle spasms lasting from 1 to 15 minutes cause the pain. Many of these children are unable to touch their toes with their fingertips without bending their knees.

During a pain episode, stretching the foot and toes upward will often resolve the muscle spasm. Gentle massage and moist heat over the painful spot can also help.

In most cases the pain can be prevented with simple, daily stretching exercises. These exercises must be continued even after the pain subsides in order to keep the muscles and tendons relaxed and able to accommodate the next growth spurt.

Some physicians recommend giving a glass of tonic water before bed. I have never seen any studies evaluating this suggestion, but it might help and wouldn’t hurt. Plenty of fluids should make cramping less likely.

Although these painful occurrences of growing up are nothing to be worried about, like all of life’s growing pains, they can be quite bothersome when in the middle of an episode. It is precisely the reshaping of ourselves that causes physical and emotional growing pains — in both situations, the pain results in our becoming more mature people.

Last medical review on: July 14, 2010
About the Author
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Dr. Greene is a practicing physician, author, national and international TEDx speaker, and global health advocate. He is a graduate of Princeton University and University of California San Francisco.
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why does my 9 year old daughter head hurts every time.

Hi good day I my son is 4 years old now I notice him this week he always wake up at night crying ..he said half of his head is very hurt and his both legs…I want to know why he feels it? What to do ? because at day time he didn’t feel anything….please help me….
MESSAGE from Philippines.

I have a 9 year old who has to stop a lot when he is walking or sitting to stretch his legs. How can I help him?

i am having six years old child with a late development now a days he is not able to walk properly he will be falling and he cold not speek but he will understand every thing and his back bone is slightly bend towards left for that sake he is having pain i think so please help me and give me the suggestion thank you

I am 13 years old. I have been to the doctor and they have prescribed me with ibrubrofen and diagnosed me with growing pains. However my pain is worse in the morning and is triggered by walking quickly/running, walking up and down stairs, squatting, kneeling and standing up after a long period of time. Is this growing pains or could it be more serious

It happens daily

For the past two nights my 4 year old son is waking up screaming and scared that his legs don’t work, he’s freezing cold, and his whole body hurts. He’s also terrified to try and stand, walk, or go use the restroom. Does this sound like a bout of growing pains? or maybe night terrors? He’s had trouble sleeping before.

Hi CJ,
Thanks for writing in! That sounds rough, for both you and your son.
Regarding growing pains, Dr. Greene says, “When children are plagued by episodes of recurrent, brief leg pain, it is a good idea for them to be checked once by a physician. If the physical examination is normal, with no redness, tenderness, swelling, or limitation of movement, and if the pain is not provoked by moving or associated with any abnormal gait, then this situation is what we often call growing pains. These pains typically occur at night with no resultant daytime disability. The actual source of the pain has never been proven, but long experience has taught us that they are benign and self-limited.
If the physical examination is not normal or the pain is associated with other symptoms, your doctor will be able to discuss in more detail other potential diagnoses such as chronic trauma, infection, restless leg syndrome, and childhood arthritis.”
If he’s scared and has had trouble sleeping before, that’s a good thing to mention to your physician as well.
Good luck and please let us know how he’s doing!
Hope that helps!
Alexandra (caring helper at drgreene.com, not a doctor)

My 2 year old son complaints about leg pain but ONLY at night time he wakes me up every hour…

I suffered with severe “growing pains” as a child..the Dr gave me placebo pills ..
Guess they thought I was just imagining it. Why else would a 5y old sit on the side of the tub in the middle of the night, running as hot water as possible on their legs!
Why can’t Dr’s just prescribe a pain reliever…this is real pain people!

My 3 year old has been telling me thay both his legs hurt. This morning be woke up crying for 10 minutes straight. He keeps moving around and holding his legs like he doesnt know what to do. I am really concerned and worried. Not surenif I should call his pediatrician.

Jaydnn,

It would be wise to call his pediatrician.

Best, @MsGreene
Note: I am the co-founder of DrGreene.com, but I am not Dr. Greene and I am not a doctor. Please keep that in mind when reading my comments and replies.

My little brother feilt fine and hes walking and running but he started to cry and he keep picking up his leg like if there was something was hurting him. What do I do? He about to be 2.

Diego,

It sounds like it’s time to have a doctor examine him. This is not the normal course for growing pains. It is likely not serious, but does deserve attention.

Best, @MsGreene
Note: I am the co-founder of DrGreene.com, but I am not Dr. Greene and I am not a doctor. Please keep that in mind when reading my comments and replies.

My 7 year old daughter is complaining of leg pain and can’t make a fist. With her hands. Please help.

My 7 year old grandaugter says she feels shaky hands and feet

Hi Wilma,

Have you had her blood sugar levels checked?

Best,
@MsGreene
Co-founder & Executive Producer DrGreene.com, Mom
Note: Not Dr. Greene, not a doctor. Keep that in mind when reading my comments and replies.

My 1 year old started walking at 10 months and walks well, but for one he’s pretty clumsy and still falls a lot. My concern is when he’s sitting on his legs/feet for a short time he starts to fuss and almost cry when trying to get up, I’m not used to this because my other two children never had this issue. Just worried because it happens often, & seems painful.

I know many adults may have that problem but never knew babies or toddlers to experience pain from that.

Any info will help thanks Dr.

My child of 5 years age suffering with swelling in leg and arm mostly near joint appear with pain and disappear in 24 hours

Chandra,

Has this happened repeatedly? Is it gone now?

Best,
@MsGreene
Co-founder & Executive Producer DrGreene.com, Mom
Note: Not Dr. Greene, not a doctor. Keep that in mind when reading my comments and replies.

I’m a 15 year-old boy , I have already been diagnosed with flat feet but recently it feels like it has been getting worse. It starts in my feet and makes me feel weak and hypersensitive. I have talked to a doctor but they all say say growing pains.

dear doctor i need and answer please this is second time i notice in my son he is 7 yrs old he got a cold ,cough,fever for more than 3 days then i gave him aurgument and i notice he self well no complain then wake up to his feet can move he say it is cramp

Sharon,

Some illnesses can cause leg weakness and pain.

Since he’s on an antibiotic, I assume he’s seen his doctor. This would be a good time to call the same doctor and let him know about this development.

Best,
@MsGreene
Co-founder & Executive Producer DrGreene.com, Mom

At the age of 2 my son was said to have growing pains and it has really been a battle. I’ve never heard of such a thing and I’m the mother of 3. My son is now 4years old and his left leg gives out on him often. His legs… mainly left leg aches constantly and he has to basically do a guided step test before running or walking just to be sure his leg doesn’t give out. Could this be growing pains as well? I’m really 2nd guessing the diagnosis but don’t know how or what I can do next.

Michelle,

After two years and no relief, it sounds like a second opinion is in order.

Best,
@MsGreene

Hi,

I have an 8 year old son he’s always complaining of pain. So bad at night he kicks the wall to try and get relief from it.

He has had this pain since he was 2 years old. They have done hundreds of blood test x-rays and lots of exams.

When the pain started, the Dr said he was to hound for growing pains. Other issues include F.T.T and tiredness cause he is always waking up.

Well in the last few months he has started hurting during the day more and more, also at night. He cries and pushes off the wall he even says it feels as if his ankles are on fire and burning. He will put cold rags on them and cry for hours. He complains of back leg ankle and neck pain lower back not upper and other pains, too.

Dr says they can’t find anything. What do I do now?

Please consider getting him tested for LYME disease! Also please consider that the CDC testing standards and protocol are wrong. Look for an LLMD and have him assessed!

Kristol,

How hard. Poor guy. And poor parents.

Complex cases, where the diagnosis is not obvious are often best treated at a children’s hospital where there is access to many specialties such as rheumatology, hematology and oncology.

You can contact the nearest children’s hospital directly and ask to speck to someone in each of those departments or you can go to that ER and the doctor there will do an exam and refer you to the best department.

Please let us know how this turns out.

@MsGreene

My son is 8 and has been struggling with knee/leg pain, sometimes his back or neck and also arms hurt at night especially his joints. I thought it was growing pains, but it’s been about a year or more and happens every night. It has also been progressive.

My husband was exposed to toxic mold and made him very, very sick. We still trying to get him better, but it is genetic and my son is experiencing all the symptoms of mold exposure. I’m afraid he might have gotten the same genetic predisposition :(

Some of the things that can cause this kind of pain are the mold micotoxins, or yeast and fungal infections, like candida in the gut.

I’m starting to treat my son for mold and he has shown signs of the “dieoff” so I’m hoping and praying that he starts to feel better soon.

Good luck to everyone. I know that seeing your child in pain is not fun.

I read a lot of people are askimg questions about children. But not that many that they can’t be answered. Who runs this blog?? They should answer at least more people.

Anyhow, I just wanted to say to parents that is tour child is in pain have tour dr. run tests. Don’t sit with diagnosis ‘growing pains’. It is possible to have these, I am a living proof of it but just to say that this should be a last option after bloodwork/ x-ray/ ultrasound has been conducted. Don’t take the risk of seeing the pain increase with time because sometimes things can be serious.

Hi Diana,

I’m Cheryl Greene, one of the founders of this site. After almost 22 years, I’m still the Executive Producer.

I agree, it would be great to answer more questions. It may not be apparent from just visiting the site, but Dr. Greene (the other founder and my husband) tries to give thorough answers to representative questions in hopes that people can find some, if not all, of the answer to their own questions.

Because we know it can be frustrating to post a question and not get a personalized answer, we’ve considered taking “Comments” down from the site. This would take away the expectation that every question will be answered. We haven’t done that because some threads are very active. A reader who is very well versed in an area often comes into a thread and answers several people’s questions and provides really helpful tips. Meanwhile some threads remain without answers. This, we know is not ideal.

Thanks for your feedback.

Best,
@MsGreene

Excuse for my spelling, typing on my phone:)

I have pain in my feet. I am 7 years old.

My ankles are weak and my mummy has taken me to a chiropractor. My feet hurt at night . Xxx

Hi Alfie,

I’m impressed that you’re using the internet to try and solve your problems.

Pain in the feet can come from many things. Often wearing shoes that don’t fit are a cause. If you have “flat feet” you may need shoes with support created for flat feet.

Have you asked your parents for help?

Best,
@MsGreene

I daughter always complaining back pain only at night when sleep. She is 5 years old. She is active all other time. Please advise

My daughter is 4 years old, she has experienced growing pains in her legs before, but the last 3 nights has been complaining that her fingers and toes are sore. Is it possible to get growing pains in your fingers and toes – it has also been colder than normal – so I am sure that also has some effect on her pain! Please help, she cries uncontrollably in pain!

I would check for arthritis, I have known children to have arthritis, and they can get help especially, if it is in figures and toes when it’s colder I would ask dr about arthritis,

My 3 year old complains about hos legs hurting often. Never at bed time, Just throughout the day and It’s a daily thing I often have to carry him. I’ve noticed hos appetite isn’t very good for a few months now and now th past. Week he’s been saying his head hurt and feeling like he’s going to throw up from it.. I feel I maybe silly to badger his Dr about it but I’m staring to worry.

My soon to be 3 year olds son is doing this I’m nervous

My 7 year old son complains of pain in his fingers, toes and “boy parts”.
This started a couple of years ago. My husband said he had the same issues as a little boy and his parents just gave him a heating pad.
I am worried it could be more. His pediatrician examined him but said he seems fine and to just give him Motrin or Tylenol.
But my instincts say otherwise.
I am now trying Chiropractic care. He is on very good vitamins and I have ordered him some Omega 3.

He describes the pain like rocks slamming in the areas that hurt. The only relief he gets is when he squeezes them. He has me squeeze his finger tips and toes.
Lately he tells me his whole body hurts.
No inflammation, no swelling, no redness. He has full mobility and he runs and plays. But some days he won’t because he hurts.

Any other mothers experience this with their child? I am researching and trying everything.

I am 13 years old. I’m a pretty active person, I play lots of sports such as volleyball,track,basketball,gymnastics and now I’m a dancer and I have been having hip pain for about 9 days now. First it was my right hip, and 2 days later my knee started hurting but it stopped that same day, and after that I have been having bad pain on my left hip and sometimes my right will start hurting again. My parents keep saying that it’s probably growing pain, I don’t think it is. What should I do.

Kyndal,

This may be a gate issue. As a first step, make sure you’re wearing shoes that are right for you. In northern California there are stores that specialize in fitting the best shoes for your gate. You don’t pick out a style you like, they watch you walk or jog, then bring you shoes that they think will help you. Obviously, they are more expensive than just buying off-the-shelf athletic shoes. If you buy them and they don’t work well, you can bring them back.

If you don’t get better, consider going to a sport medicine doctor or a physical therapist.

Hope that helps,
@MsGreene

1) My son is 5 years old he often feel swear pain in his feet since age of 3 years) some time in his right or some time in his left foot. apparently his feet seem perfect but he often cry badly due to pain even i have to take him to some general physician. every time doc says he is fine.

2) he is very week. his weight is 17.5 kgs.

3) when ever he take bath or we comb his hair, we feel hair fall of 20 to 3 hairs. (me and my wife have very thick hair/ no family history of baldnee). why this is happening (his hair fall)

Note: I am very worried can above mentioned system leads towards any bone or any other CANCER.

PLEASE REPLY

Every once in awhile my 3 yo daughter will complain at night about her legs hurting. Sometimes she will limp around for bit. She is a very active kid and never complains about this during the day. Well last night she complained of her legs and feet hurting. I usually give her a hot pack for them and she seems to like it. I rubbed them last night because she kept getting up almost every hour. It really worried me when she was crawling to me, crying saying she can’t walk. In the morning she got up and same thing. She is limping pretty bad still complaining about the same thing. She doesn’t want to walk because she said it hurts. I don’t know what to do, is this normal??

My 4yr old son has been complaining of leg pains for a few months now. I have been brushing it off as growing pains. Now that it’s gotten worse and be cries every night and very morning. I looked up growing pains and it says they do not happen in the morning. Ive made a appointment with the Dr. but I am wondering what test I should have done if he is complaining of sever leg pains morning and night? What could be wrong? Other than this he seems happy and healthy.

My son is 3 and wakes up every morning in tears saying he can’t walk cause his legs hurt! I still think it’s growing pains!! He doesn’t wake at night from it or have problems with it at night!!
I’ve had an oncologist ( my son had a germ cell tumor st 18 months is fine now) check his legs he seems to think growing pains too!!!

My daughter is 13 years old, and her back feels uncomfortable . she is unable to sit not the floor without bending her legs,touch her toes or life her legs up to 90°. Her posture is terrible sitting down. As a child she always used to walk on her tip toes and rest with one foot above the group and it rested on the other leg…kinda like a flamigo.

I have a freind she has black skin under her arms she went to the skin specialist did not help any idea how to get rid of it

Hello my 4 year old daughter complains about back of the knee pain in the morning when she gets up she walks with a limp and at time she can’t even stand what could that be ?

My one year son bends his foot while walking. He doesn’t allow the under foot to touch the floor. He cries only when i press it. Will it stop eventually?

Ngoo,

I think it would be wise to have this checked out by his doctor. It may be nothing, but it’s certainly worth having a physical exam.

Best,
@MsGreene

my boy is 10years he is having regs problem starting bedding to much ,when he stand-up he start panning much ,what can I do know he is very short and working like a tortoise

I have suffered with these leg spasms/pain whatever you call it all my life. I’m 35 now and still get them, I’ve learned to control them better and they last sometimes 30 mins but if they hurt they return most of the day/night. My 1.5 yr old son now I believe has them. He wakes almost every other hour at night and is constantly hugging his legs into his chest. Here’s the strange part, mine has always been associated with being too gassy, I’m worried he now has the same issue. It mostly happens when I eat corn products, however i never been tested for a food allergy. No doctor has ever seemed to put the two together nor can I. I feel for my son because he cannot tell me what’s going on yet so I just do my best to rub his legs and soothe him back to bed.

My son is 3 years old. He suffers from pain almost every night and wakes up every hour or two crying in pain. Is this normal?

Hi Mom,

This sounds horrible and heart wrenching. Where is his pain?

@MsGreene

My 4 yr old daughter has been complaining of pain behind her left knee for close to a yr now. It happens more at night, but it has caused her problems in the day. She plays so hard on her legs and knees I wasn’t sure if it’s growing pains because she has grown more in height lately or if it’s because she just plays so hard on them? Do you think I should get her checked out? Or do you think its more growing pains than anything else?

Thank you,
Tristan

I’m 14 and I have had these leg cramps mainly in my right leg, for about 3 plus years now…they’re getting more painful each time, last about five or more mins at least for me, To where I’m crying and biting my pillow… I don’t play sports or anthing that can overextend that muscle. I haven’t gone to the doctor for them but I would recommend that u should take her in, so hopefully they don’t get worse…. I hope this does not scare anyone, but they can get really painful.

My4 year old daughter was always a happy and healthy baby. But from last year she started to complain that her toes hurt. I thought it’s because she is putting on socks all the time. So I had to stop that but her complain was going on. There’s absolutely no sign of anything . Her toes look fine. She didn’t cry but couldn’t play or anything for few moments. I used to rub Vaseline or olive oil on her toes and after a while she was like , it’s gone. That’s how it’s going on for more than a year. Nowadays she complain s about both of her knees and elbows. She wakes up at night and cries a little bit saying her knees, hand , toes hurt. I am really worried now because its increasing day by day. Don’t know what’s going on with her. She gets cold and cough very easily and quite often. We give her over the counter cold medicine . Don’t know if that has anything to do with it. Please help !

Hi Sophia,

I’m so sorry your daughter is in pain. This may be more than growing pains. It would be wise to see her pediatrician. He or she may recommend seeing a specialist for a diagnosis and treatment.

Best,
@MsGreene

My daughter 18 complaining of foot pain that goes IP her leg…she says it feels real tight and hurt…

My daughter is turning 10 tomorrow. For the last couple months she has been waking up in the morning ( not every morning) limping and complaining about her left knee. She says it hurts right below her knee where her shin starts. But by the end of the day no pain. Well she had bad pain and limping this morning. So I called school to check on her and they let me talk to her. She said she was feeling better until she got hit in her left let during PE and it made her fall on that same knee. She can walk on it but now her knee is swollen. Ugh…..I understand why her knee is swollen. But what I’m asking is why the speratic pains in one leg only in mornings.

I’m 11 years old and I’m suffering from growing pain both my thighs and calfs hurt every time I walk but my thighs hurt when I sit down I have to run a lap in gym and they hurt so badly but I don’t tell my teacher cause I try to deal with it myself and I don’t tell me parents my pain hasn’t gone away I’ve had my growing fro almost two weeks it continues in the morning and night plz I need advice

Hi Cristina, Sounds like a good time to tell your parents. You should have to “deal with it” all by yourself.

My son is having pains in his legs his 5years old when he stands or walk he crys and this pains started when he was sick with flue and cough and his Doctor says he has Chest infection so after the Doctor next following day the pains start at night when he was about to woke up and pee he still having the pains even nw. Plz help I don’t know what to do anymore

My 12 years old daughter complain a sharp pain at her both legs. After physical examination, her doctor mentioned she has a grown pain. I don’t have any ideas to reduce her pain. Does she need more excises or take calcium pills Vitamin D?

My 12 years old daughter complain the sharp pain at her both legs. After physical examination, her doctor mentioned it’s growing pains. I don’t have any ideas to reduce her pain. Does she need more excises or take calcium pills or Vitamin D?

My 14yr old daughter is complaining about “growing pains” she had it yesterday night before bedtime and now she has them again. It’s hurting her calves and thighs. I want to make sure if this is a growing pain?

I am also 14 years old and suffering from same problem through which your daughter is suffering but i don’t know why my leg and back is paining so much and it is happening to me since two years

Hi
my 6 year old told me his back hurts sometimes when he “runs hard” and has to sit down, then yesterday he said his legs “feel weird”. Then he said he has to “peepee a little after running hard”… I am beginning to worry. He said its not all the time. I google and of course its all awful stuff. He seems to play normally most of the time. I made apt with pediatrician but im scared its something awful. Can anyone offer some advice or anyone experience this?

Could be gluten issue like a sensitivity or celiac as it causes joint pain.

My 3rd year old son has started recently complaining about his leg hurts. He will stop playing and rub his leg complaining it hurt. It mostly happens during the day when he’s playing avidly.

My eleven year old has been complaining about having strong pain under his left knee when he runs , it so strong that he cries , I have tried putting heat and wraping it but it does not seem to help. He is very athletic kid and I hate to see him not being able to run with out a lot of pain to the point where he has to stop all toguether and can’t enjoy while his friends just continue to run and play .

Why are my knees in pain almost since I was kid until now. I’m 18 already and my knees are getting worse. It hurts even if I’m not walking, or I’m just sitting or lying only. Why does it still hurt? Please answer.