Growing pains

Fast facts about growing pains

  • Growing pains are not related to bone growth57
  • Growing pains concentrate more in muscles than in joints57
  • Growing pains are most commonly felt in the thighs, behind the knees, and in the calves57
  • They are most common around the age of 3 and 4, and again around 8 to 12 years of age58
  • Over-the-counter analgesics that contain paracetamol and/or ibuprofen may help to ease the pain57

Parents often associate growing pains with growing bones, but there's no evidence to show that the pain emanates from the bone itself.57 There is also no evidence to link growing pains to growth spurts.58 They may simply be muscle aches due to overuse after running, jumping, climbing, etc.58

Growing pains are most common in children around the age of 3 and 4, and again around 8 to 12 years of age.58

Is it a growing pain or not?

Growing pains always concentrate in the muscles rather than the joints.57 Most kids complain of pain in the front of their thighs, in the calves, or behind the knees.57 The pain is at its worst in the late afternoon or around bedtime and can even wake your child up at night.57

To help distinguish between growing pain or something more serious, it's important to see how your child responds to touch.57 Growing pains feel better when the area is being held and massaged.57 Pain with a more serious origin will feel worse when the area is touched or moved, and the joints may feel warm, swollen and tender57.

Helping your child at home

You can help ease the discomfort by placing a heated pad on the area or massaging and stretching the area gently.57

Would an analgesic be of value?

Yes, ask your doctor or pharmacist for an over-the-counter analgesic that contains paracetamol and/or ibuprofen to help ease the pain.57 Follow the dose recommendation for your child's age.

When to contact a doctor

Consult your doctor if:57

  • Your child's pain is associated with injury 
  • You can see swelling or redness in one area or joint
  • Your child has long-lasting pain or pain in the morning
  • The pain is accompanied by fever, limping, unusual rashes, loss of appetite, tiredness or weakness

Frequently asked questions