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Growing Pains

Conditions Basics

What are growing pains?

Growing pains are leg pains that can hurt enough to wake your child at night. Although they can be very painful, they are not serious. They will not cause any long-lasting problems.

Growing pains can start as early as the toddler years, or they can start later in childhood. Sometimes teens have growing pains. After growing pains start, a child may have them off and on for 1 or 2 years.

Not all children have growing pains.

What causes them?

Doctors don't know why children have growing pains. But the pain isn't caused by a child's growth. And it's not caused by a medical problem.

What are the symptoms?

When a child has growing pains:

  • The pain is in the muscles, not in joints.
  • The pain usually happens later in the afternoon, in the evening, or at night.
  • The pain is usually in the thighs or calves and in both legs.
  • There may be more pain if your child was more active during the day.
  • The pain goes away by morning.

How are they diagnosed?

Growing pains have a certain pattern of symptoms. If you are unsure about whether your child is having growing pains, talk to your doctor. He or she will ask about your child's pain. If it doesn't fit the usual pattern, the doctor may examine your child.

It is probably not growing pains if your child looks sick, has pain during the day or during an activity, or has pain that gets worse over time. In these cases, your doctor may do more tests.

How are growing pains treated?

  • Tell your child that you understand it hurts. But also tell your child that it is not a serious problem and will go away.
  • Try gently massaging the area.
  • Use heat. To apply heat, put a warm water bottle or a warm cloth on the area. Keep a cloth between the warm water bottle and your child's skin.
  • Give your child acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) for pain. Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
  • Do not give a child two or more pain medicines at the same time unless the doctor told you to. Many pain medicines have acetaminophen, which is Tylenol. Too much acetaminophen (Tylenol) can be harmful.
  • Encourage your child to continue his or her usual activities. Not doing them will not prevent growing pains.

Credits

Current as of: July 1, 2021

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
John Pope MD - Pediatrics
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine

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