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The truth behind “growing pains”. An Adelaide Podiatrist discusses

Growing Pains: ‘Non-specific leg pain which affects otherwise healthy children.’  (Evans 2010)

How many of us have experienced growing pains as a child? The majority of us would agree to YES. In fact, up to 50% of children are affected by it! Growing pains is a common condition in which parents define their child’s aches and pains; but what is the true diagnoses?!

Several theories have been thought to contribute to the cause of growing pains. These include:

1. Leg and foot structure

2. Over-use of muscles in the leg of active children

3. Emotions/psychological factors/pain threshold

Other inconclusive links to growing pains include obesity and decreased bone strength.

A diagnosis of growing pains can be made via process of inclusion criteria and exclusion of other suspected conditions.


– intermittent pain in muscles, mostly during the late afternoon or evenings and some pain-free days

-pain in both limbs, but clinical examination should be normal

Exclusions and links to other conditions:

-persistent pain in joints, all day and into the night

-pain in one limb, and signs of swelling, redness, tenderness, infection, decreased range of motion or limping

-diagnoses of conditions (other than growing pains) by x-ray, bone scan, MRI

Different (more serious) conditions which may be suspected from the above criteria are juvenile arthritis, a metabolism disorder, a muscle tear, a fracture and/or restless legs.

Treatment and management:

Different treatment options for growing are still under trial, however, muscle stretching and in-shoe wedging are believed to have the best evidence. Following these are other management strategies such as heat therapy, massage, vitamin supplements and paracetamol.

A Podiatrist can be the primary care option is growing pains are suspected in the foot or leg. If doubting the diagnoses of growing pains, they will refer child and parent  for diagnostic testing, or onto another specialist such as a GP and physio.

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Adam Wiles

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