growing pain | biochronicles



by Emanuele Chisari (keyword: growing pains)

Have you become a parent recently? Do you have younger siblings? Congratulations! With this article, we want to help you understand and manage the Growing Pains.

During childhood, some children suddenly develop pains which are not normally explained by common musculoskeletal condition of the paediatric age. This pain, prevalent named as idiopathic (medical term to say we do know nothing about) has some typical characteristics: it appears suddenly (often in the late evening), usually affecting both lower limb in children 3 to 12 years old. Like every pain reported by children, it should be not underestimated but neither overestimated. Let’s start progressively, we will walk together and in three simple steps things will get clearer.


What do we have to do first? This is one of the cases in which you need help and you have to ask for medical advice: book an appointment with your trusted GP, a paediatrician or a paediatric orthopaedic surgeon. Go visiting a trusted medical doctor is an essential step. I strongly suggest you choose someone who is experienced in practising with children and then wait to know his/her opinion. Pain should be never underestimated, and it should be investigated with the proper awareness and serenity.


Your son or your daughter could be affected by growing pains. Wait any further investigation of your trusted doctor but you do not have a lot to worry about. They life-time prevalence vary between 21% and 50% in children younger than 12 years. However, I can imagine it, you are still full of unanswered questions: “What are these growing pains? And why does my child have it but the others don’t?”
As should be done in similar situations, let’s look at the scientific evidence together to on this topic. Based on the most up-to-date research studies, we can say that there isn’t any evidence that growing gives you pain (luckily 😊) and, despite the term used for this condition, as we previously wrote its cause is mostly unknown (remember the idiopathic term?). Usually it is enough to let the child rest, buy a good gelato (or ice-cream if you prefer) after visiting the doctor and everything stop as it starts, suddenly.


So, what is the cause of these pains? The modern science was not able to give us a sure answer. This can be further understood by the fact that usually a doctor diagnoses this condition by excluding everything else more commonly seen. However, some evidence supports several theories, still not confirmed, behind this interesting pain:


    Repetitive mechanical trauma of low entity (jumping, running, playing, even the most common activities of the kids) on growing bones and joints, in genetically predisposed (sensible) subjects, favour the beginning of localized inflammatory process, i.e. limited to the single districts overused. This kick in the pain stimulation and the clinical presentation of the condition.


    We first need to clarify a concept; even though pain can sometimes be derived by psychological distress, what we call psychogenic pain and therefore not from an organic damage, the pain is real, concrete and felt with precision from the child affected. This cannot simply mean we have to live with the problem or ignore it. According to this theory, the pain is a request for attention, help and love of the kinds towards his parents and close relatives. A healthy relationship, or the rebuilding of it is crucial. Some studies reported how the parents’ apprehension for the minimum physical symptoms is associated to a higher incidence of this “disease”. Other experts suggest working on these aspects of the family interaction after the diagnosis of growing pains. In any case, follow your trusted doctor advices talking openly of the situation. If needed, the counselling of an expert is never a bad choice.


    Few little anatomic congenital variations in some district of our body can higher the risk of circulatory dysregulations. The nutrients and the blood tend to be stopped at microscopical level causing the stimulation of the pain receptors. It is a common theory of several other orthopaedic condition of the evolutive age, for some authors it works in strict relation with the overuse theory.

Given that all three theories have been supported by experts around the world, none of them can be considered the “best” and definitive answer. Time and research are still needed to understand more of this complex condition.

However, what emerges from recent studies and from the clinical experiences of major children disease specialist is that growing pains probably have a multifactorial origin where both biology, genetics and psychology work together. Like for other diseases, it is possible that the subjects who develop this pathology are genetically predisposed and biologically more pain sensible, and even though it was seen that the pain starts in the days of higher physical demand for the kids.

Usually growing pains are not something to be worried about, even though they can be upsetting for the kids affected. Rarely, but not for this to be excluded, they can be a symptom of important diseases such as neoplasms, infections and rheumatic diseases. If you have the suspect that the growing pains are affecting your child, bring him/her to an expert doctor but do not panic. Once you will clarify the doubt, have a good time together with the child and your family and send him/her back to play.




Written by Emanuele Chisari. Reviewed by Davide Maspero and Gianluca Lombardo.



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Quest’opera di Biochronicles A.P.S. è distribuita con Licenza Creative Commons Attribuzione – Condividi allo stesso modo 4.0 Internazionale.

About the Author : Biochronicles

Associazione di Promozione Sociale per la divulgazione scientifica.

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