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What are growing pains?

Growing pains are a common occurrence and complaint amongst the pre-teens and teenage population, particularly if they’re participating in sport all year round.

Majority of the time, these complaints are generally brushed to the side as just “something you have to put up with” when going through adolescence. Generally speaking, growing pains are poorly understood and poorly managed due to our laid back approach for managing minor aches and pains. You may be thinking there isn’t much we can do until they “grow out of it”. That’s not entirely true, majority of the time these “growing pains” as such can be eliminated or at least eased with some customised and quality treatment.

So what causes growing pains? The underlying cause of growing pains is of a muscular origin. During periods of growth, the bones tend grow faster than the muscles can lengthen. This results in the muscles being placed under a lot of tension and as a result will pull/stress on the bony attachment causing pain. Don’t be alarmed, your children will recover from these aches and pains once they’re finished growing, however there are plenty of things we can do to manage their symptoms during this time.

Physiotherapy involvement can prevent your child from developing secondary issues (postural changes, muscles weaknesses) which would impact on their sporting abilities.

Common areas in which your child might experiencing;

  • Knee/Osgood-Schlatters Disease: The pain is located at the prominence of the shin bone (tibial tuberosity) below the knee cap. This becomes painful when the quadriceps (thigh) muscle tightness and pulls onto this attachment.

Heel/Severs Disease: Is pain that is located at the heel where the Achilles tendon attaches onto the heel bone. This insertion point becomes painful then the calf muscle tightens.

Shin Splints/Tibial Periostitis: shin pain can be present either on the inside or outside of the shin depending upon which muscle group is affected.

So we know growing is the major factor in the presentation of these aches and pains… what else can contribute to their symptoms?

  • High impact weight bearing sports, or any sport that involves a lot of running or jumping

  • Poor biomechanics/technique ( previous injury, posture, underlying joint stiffness/muscle imbalances)

Growing pains do vary in presentation and severity. Children aged between 3-8 years of age or adolescents will generally experience growing pains.

Signs and symptoms to look out for include;

  • Pain can be described as Aching/burning in nature

  • Located in the muscles that attach to the knee, shins or heel

  • Can be in both legs, but generally worse in one

  • Mild to severe in intensity

  • Localised swelling or tenderness over bony insertion

  • Can tend to follow patterns

  • Sore during warm up only, progressing to sore during game/after, followed by constantly and worse pain at night

General physiotherapy management would involve education and advice on the specific condition once a diagnosis is obtained, pain management and a tailored/structured home program and stretches and strengthening exercises to optimise your child's function.

In most cases your child will be able to continue with their usual sporting endeavours only requiring some modifications to training/work load to ensure their symptoms are not aggravated.

If you have any queries or concerns about your child, feel free to make an appointment to see one of our highly qualified physiotherapists for a detailed assessment and individualised program to help manage their aches and pains.

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