Updated: May 15, 2020
By: Shantai Watson
So… What exactly are growing pains? Growing pains are vague discomforts that children report in their thighs, behind the knees, calves and occasionally the groin. Often, kids will report them later in the day or evening, and may even wake kids up at night. These pains may last for a few minutes or a few hours, are common and cease over time without any lasting sequelae. Growing pains do NOT cause limping, swelling, fevers or occur on only one side. If your child is experiencing pain, it is important to bring them in to get checked out and make sure their pain isn’t caused by anything more serious.
Many people consider “growing pains” to be a misnomer because they do not occur when kids are growing their fastest. Growth is also such a slow process, it’s unlikely to cause pain. So why are kiddos experiencing these aches?!
The truth is there are many theories, but no one cause has ever been determined. This is not necessarily bad news. It means there are lots of things that may be done to help get your child out of pain!
The first theory that has been proposed is the Anatomic Theory. As children are growing, they may have altered biomechanics due to being generally hyperflexible or developing flat feet or knock knees. Another theory is Fatigue Theory. This is supported by parents’ observations that their child experiences more pain after active days, along with a study that showed children with lower bone density often experienced more growing pains. Other theories include the Psychological theory; that the pain occurs most with children also have behavior problems or when the child is experiencing a bad mood, and the low Vitamin D theory; which is supported by a study that found children with growing pains also had low vitamin D levels, which were improved with Vitamin D supplementation.
So what does this mean? One of the first and best things to do is to get your child adjusted by a chiropractor. Often kids have pelvic or back misalignments which alter their biomechanics and cause pain. A chiropractor may also assess the child’s feet, ankles, knees and hips to make sure everything is developing as it should and moving properly. Postural exercises, wobble board exercises to strengthen the low back, stretching, massage, Rocktape or shoe insoles may also be recommended.
Another approach is nutrition. It is important that the child is drinking adequate water to prevent muscle cramping which may contribute to the “growing pains”. A multivitamin is also recommended, and potentially supplementing with Calcium and Magnesium. Calcium and Magnesium may help with muscle cramping (especially during active days) and bone density. Lastly, we may recommend Vitamin D supplementation. Vitamin D is necessary for Calcium to be absorbed and to be taken up into the bones, and supplementation has been shown to decrease growing pains.
Kids shouldn’t be in pain. Although there are no lasting effects from having growing pains, your child does not need to experience them. By getting adjusted and moving well, eating well and sleeping well, we can help to resolve them.
Shantai Watson will graduate as a Doctor of Chiropractic from Palmer College of Chiropractic West in September 2019. As an ex-athlete who had the benefit of having chiropractors for parents, she has a passion for chiropractic in sports. She is currently the President of the Student ACA Sports Council, and a Certified CSCF Ski Racing Coach. She is Webster technique certified, and has taken multiple pediatric seminars throughout her education. She has traveled to El Salvador and Mexico providing chiropractic care to those in need, and can’t wait to provide care to the Denver area.