As kids grow and tumble their way through childhood, there are a lot of little problems and abnormalities that they will outgrow. You can rest assured that eating boogers, asking a million questions and throwing temper tantrums in the grocery store will most likely disappear as they get older. Yet in the case of growing pains, it might be the sign of an underlying condition which might not go away on its own.
Growing pains are described as sporadic throbbing and aching pain in the legs which can sometimes wake a child from sleep. It is most common in pre-school and school aged children. There is no clear indication of what exactly causes the pain, but it is understood that repetitive stress or overuse can be what overtaxes a child’s growing musculoskeletal system.
One structural abnormality which often goes overlooked is flat feet. It is completely normal for a baby’s foot to look flat. As the child starts to walk and be weight bearing, the arch develops which usually happens at ages 3-4. By ages 5-6 a normal arch should be established. When people (this includes kids and adults) walk around on flat feet, it puts more pressure on the inside of the foot, which in turn can cause pulling & rotating on the inside of the knee, causing a chain reaction which could result in hip and lower back problems. In kids, you will know when flat feet are becoming a problem if they are experiencing:
- Pain (mostly in the knee & shin, felt primarily at night)
- Poor balance
- Delayed walking
- Awkward gait
- Poor coordination
Once you realize flat feet are a problem, there are a number of ways to treat it. The simplest solution is to use an orthotic, which is essentially a brace to help support the foot and is often placed in the sole of a shoe. If fitted properly, orthotics can provide the type of correction which will allow the foot to develop normally. If this isn’t enough, then your child might need to be evaluated by a chiropractor, physical therapist or occupational therapist to identify ways to strengthen or improve function in the muscles, bones and joints so that growing pains do not develop. Another factor that could be causing or aggravating growing pains is childhood obesity, in which excessive weight is the factor which puts extra stress on the feet. Also, it’s always important to be aware if these pains come as the result of an injury, fever, rash/hives, extreme fatigue or general weakness for several days, then the cause could be systemic and it should be evaluated right away by a healthcare professional.
So, are growing pains normal? No. Yet since in many cases they will go away on their own, you should be aware of what to do when intervention is necessary. Be encouraged that there are lots of things we can do to make it better!