Most of us remember being told by a parent or guardian that our nighttime aching in our legs is simply the common problem of growing pains.
What exactly are growing pains and how do they affect the life of a child? How long do these pains last and how can we relieve the aching feeling which usually occurs at night?
As 25 to 40 percent of children suffer from this issue, it important all adults understand how to deal with this common problem.
What are growing pains?
The problem those who feel they are affected by growing pains have is a lack of a common cause for the pain which generally affects the thighs, calves, and the area behind the knees.
Kidspot reports the term “growing pains” was first coined in the 19th-century but has no standard medical definition.
One of the earliest definitions of growing pains were of discomfort caused by the bones growing as a child ages.
However, the pain described by medical professionals and patients is focused on the muscles with medical researchers finding no evidence of the growth of a child causing pain such as those described.
What are the symptoms of growing pains?
According to The Mayo Clinic, the most common symptom of growing pains is a throbbing or aching feeling in the muscles of the legs.
The majority of symptoms are confined to the legs with the thighs, calves, and area behind the knees the most commonly cited in research into growing pains.
However, the symptoms commonly reported are not solely confined to the legs of the child who feels they are suffering from growing pains.
Instead, headaches have also been reported among those affected by this common medical condition which is often linked to restless leg syndrome.
Pain strikes during the night
One of the most common factors of growing pains is the fact the painful condition is most commonly seen during the nighttime disrupting sleep patterns.
The reasons for the symptoms commonly striking during the late afternoon and night has resulted in the thought from many medical professionals that heavy exercise is to blame for symptoms arriving.
Many medical professionals have formed links between heavy exercise during the day and nighttime aches and pains.
Although no definitive cause for growing pains has ever been definitively proven it is thought the overuse of muscles during the developmental phase could be a common cause of pain.
The common activities associated with regular levels of play among children including running, jumping and climbing has all been linked to the overuse of muscles leading to overnight pain.
Parents may notice a child has more instances of growing pains following a particularly active day with the more physical activity that would normally be common.
Who is affected by growing pains?
Growing pains are a symptom of childhood that can extend into early adulthood, according to New Health Advisor.
The most common times for this mysterious condition to strike are between the ages of three and five, and from age eight to twelve.
However, some adults up to the age of 22 have reported the sensation of growing pains in the legs, stomach, and head.
If an adult over 22 begins to feel they are suffering from growing pains it is a good idea to seek medical assistance as many more serious conditions can mimic the pain of childhood.
During adulthood, a medical condition can mimic growing pains but not limit the feeling tonight with the discomfort lasting long into the next day, unlike the symptoms of growing pains.
Among the medical conditions known to mimic growing pains are Lyme Disease and fibromyalgia.
Joint hypermobility is one of the most common causes of pain and discomfort overnight for adults who have taken part in physical activities and slightly injured muscle groups during exercise leading to nighttime pain.
How are growing pains diagnosed?
Kids Health reports a medical professional should always be consulted when a child is affected on a regular basis by pain in the legs or stomach or suffers from regular headaches.
A home diagnosis and course of treatment should not be undertaken until a physician has had the opportunity to examine the child affected.
One of the most common ways a diagnosis of growing pains will be reached is through an assessment using touch when pain is at its height.
Serious medical conditions involving pain will usually leave a child tender to the touch of an adult but the issue of growing pains will not leave a child unhappy at being touched in the affected area.
After reporting the issue of pain in a child, a physician will usually look to rule out all other possibilities before arriving at a diagnosis of growing pains.
In many cases, a series of tests and evaluations will be undertaken before diagnosis will be made.
How to treat growing pains?
There is no specific treatment known for this painful medical condition but a series of options including heating, massage, and stretches can be undertaken to ease the symptoms.
During the night, when these symptoms strike it is common for a parent or guardian to spend some time massaging the affected area or treating with a heating pad to relieve the pain.
Many medical professionals including Dr. Vicki Hemmett have come to trust a series of stretches designed to be used to relieve growing pains through the use of stretching in specific ways.
A YouTube video uploaded by Dr. Hemmett provides a brief explanation of the reasons behind recommending people and a demonstration of the stretches recommended for this condition.
Many medical professionals also believe the use of over the counter pain relievers can make a difference in relieving pain when symptoms occur.
Children’s ibuprofen is one of the most effective ways of treating these pains as it not only limits the onset of pain but also reduces inflammation.
The use of Aspirin is not recommended for young people as a dangerous medical condition known as Reye’s Disease can occur.
Fibromyalgia is a mysterious disorder that causes muscle pain and fatigue. People with the condition complain of sensitive places in their body that hurt when pressure is applied
The growing pains are believed to be the onset of a condition called fibromyalgia. It is the most common form of episodic childhood musculoskeletal pain.
It is very important to note that doctors should be careful of the clear clinical criteria before diagnosing a child with growing pain.
However, the subject of growing pains and their possible connection to fibromyalgia needs to be studied in more depth.
According to a survey conducted by AFTER (Advocates for Fibromyalgia Funding, Treatment, Education and Research) in 2007, adults with fibromyalgia were asked to recall symptoms they had experienced in childhood.
Forty-nine (49) percent of the adults recalled growing pains as the symptoms while 47 percent recalled headaches, 39 percent recalled chronic infections, 38 percent recalled stomach aches, 33 percent recalled sleep disturbances and 24 percent recalled unusual illnesses as symptoms of fibromyalgia.
This result clearly shows that growing pains were very common symptoms of fibromyalgia, especially during early childhood.
But fibromyalgia can be very hard to spot in children or teens because it is much more common in adults.
Most of the time fibromyalgia affects women over 18 years. Even so, between 1 and 7 percent of children are thought to have fibromyalgia or similar conditions.
Fibromyalgia’s growing pains in Teens and Children: What Causes It?
The causes of fibromyalgia are not known yet. It is a condition that also tends to run in the family although no gene has been discovered yet.
Fibromyalgia has also been linked to a number of health conditions, including immune, endocrine, psychological, and biochemical problems.
Just as fibromyalgia in adults is more likely to affect women, child and teen fibromyalgia also occurs more often in girls than in boys. Most of the girls with the condition are diagnosed between ages 13 and 15.
The growing pain symptoms of Fibromyalgia
One of the main symptoms of child fibromyalgia is sore spots on the muscles. These spots hurt when pressure is exerted on them, which is why they’re called “tender points.”
In order to find these points, the doctor will press with his or her thumb on 18 different areas that tend to be painful in people with fibromyalgia.
Children and teens who have fibromyalgia will feel tenderness in at least five of these spots. They will also experience aches and pains for at least three months or so.
The soreness can start in just one part of the body, but eventually, it can affect other areas too.
Children with fibromyalgia have described the pain in many different ways, including stiffness, tightness, tenderness, burning, or aching.
There are also other symptoms of fibromyalgia in teens and children. These include:
- Anxiety and depression
- Stomach ache
- Difficulty remembering
- Restless legs while sleeping
- Difficulty sleeping
- waking up tired
What does it do to your children?
Fibromyalgia in children and teens can be very frustrating to them and it can also lead to depression.
The pain of fibromyalgia makes it difficult for them to sleep and when children can’t sleep or get enough sleep they feel more tired during the day. Being tired also makes the pain feel more severe.
For a child with Fibromyalgia, it can be so debilitating that it causes the child to miss school an average of three days each month.
This can also be socially isolating since teens with fibromyalgia can have trouble making friends and may feel like they are not popular because of their condition.
There are various tests a doctor can conduct in helping diagnose the condition in a child.
one of the tests includes FM/a which identifies markers produced by immune system blood cells in people with fibromyalgia.
Ways of treating Fibromyalgia in Children and teens
There are different specialists who work together to treat fibromyalgia in children and teens.
They can be a Pediatric rheumatologist, a doctor who specializes in treating children with arthritis and another rheumatologic disease, a Psychologist, and a Physical therapist.
Although there is no cure for fibromyalgia there are various available treatments one can take up to manage the condition. Some of the treatments include:
It is said to be one of the most effective ways to treat fibromyalgia in teens and children to manage the pain.
One can use a technique called cognitive-behavioral therapy that helps children with fibromyalgia learn what triggers their pain and how to deal with it.
It helps improve children’s ability to function and relieve their depression. One can also use other behavior-based approaches including muscle relaxation and stress-relieving techniques like deep breathing and meditation.
Medications can also be used to treat fibromyalgia. Rheumatologists may try some of the medication used to treat adults in children too.
However, the safety and effectiveness of fibromyalgia drugs aren’t as well studied in children as in adults.
Another important treatment for fibromyalgia is exercise. Studies have shown that children with fibromyalgia who are active tend to have less intense pain and less depression.
A physical therapist can teach children the best and suitable exercise for fibromyalgia.
Physical therapy and massage can ease some of the muscle soreness that children with fibromyalgia experience.
For teens and children who are struggling with fibromyalgia, these treatments can bring help and hope.
Getting enough rest and exercise, eating healthy foods, and relieving stress can help control fibromyalgia so that kids with the condition can stay symptom-free over the long term.
Fibromyalgia has been formally recognized since 20 years ago and it has only been taken seriously by the global medical community in very recent years.
Even though there has not been any good long-term research conducted or available that follows children and teens with growing pain into adulthood it seems to be obvious that a lot of fibromyalgia patients have had this symptom from early childhood.