A healthy living blog from Marshfield Clinic Health System

Growing up is a pain (sometimes)

Teenager's feet sticking out of bed coversYour child wakes up in the middle of the night crying and grabbing her legs because of pain or discomfort. She hasn’t been injured so you chalk it up to growing pains.

Is this normal?


“Growing pains are a common problem occurring in about 10-20 percent of children,” said Dr. Joanna Gudel, a Marshfield Clinic pediatrician. “Growing pains may come and go for several years but almost always resolve before teenage years. Growing pains can be diagnosed by the pattern of pain and a regular exam. Labs and X-rays are rarely helpful. “

Growing pains are common and normal in children typically between ages 3-5 and again around ages 8-10. Growing pains might feel like tightness or an ache in thigh or calf muscles lasting 10-30 minutes.

Growth isn’t the cause

The cause of growing pains is not known but is not related to a child growing. One thought is physical activity can make muscles tired and more likely to cramp or ache. Dehydration also is a possible cause of pain.

If your child has growing pains, you can help by trying these tips:

  • Gently massage your child’s leg where the muscle hurts.
  • Place a warm heating pad under the painful area until your child’s leg feels better.
  • Give ibuprofen. It can help relax the painful muscle so your child can fall asleep.
  • Make sure your child always has water available to drink during the day.

Call your child’s health care provider right away if your child has any of the following:

  • Knee, ankle or elbow pain or swelling of a joint.
  • Discomfort that lasts into the morning such as pain, limping or stiffness.
  • Pain at night in parts of the body other than the legs.
  • Pain in exactly the same spot every time.

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