As parents, we want nothing more than to see our children healthy and happy. However, when our little ones complain of pain in their legs or feet, it can be concerning and confusing. One common cause of discomfort in children, particularly during the evening or at night, is growing pains. In this blog post, we’ll delve into the details of growing pains in children, including what they are, how they can be identified, and what parents can do to help alleviate their child’s discomfort.

What are Growing Pains?

Growing pains are a type of musculoskeletal discomfort that often occurs in children, typically between the ages of 3 and 12 years old. These pains typically manifest as a dull ache or throbbing sensation in the legs, particularly in the calves, thighs, or behind the knees. While many physicians consider growing pains a normal part of childhood development, they are actually a sign of instability and/or weakness in the lower extremity, and should be evaluated and treated by a trained professional. Addressing the weakness in childhood can prevent the development of common foot ailments we see in adulthood, such as flatfoot, bunions, and hammertoes.

Identifying Growing Pains:

It’s important for parents to be able to understand growing pains and some their key characteristics. Growing pains typically occur in the muscles, rather than the joints. Children may complain of discomfort in the muscles of the legs, particularly after a day of physical activity. They may complain of aches along the arches of the feet of the sides of the ankle that make it difficult for them to walk. Children may change the way the way they walk when they are experiencing pain by walking on their toes.

Growing pains often occur in the evening or at night, and it is not unusual for a child to awake from sleep. Your child may complain of pain after a day of increased activity, such as a sporting event that required more running or standing than usual. Parents may notice that their child experiences worsened symptoms on days where they participated in gym while at school.

How to Help Alleviate Discomfort:

Growing pains can can be uncomfortable for children and alleviating the symptoms is important. Fortunately, there are several strategies parents can use to help alleviate their child’s discomfort:

  1. Gentle massages: Massaging the affected muscles can help soothe discomfort and promote relaxation.
  2. Warm baths or compress: A warm bath before bedtime can help relax tense muscles and provide relief from pain. Alternatively, a warm compress can be applied before bed.
  3. Over-the-counter pain relief: In some cases, over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen may help alleviate discomfort. However, it’s important to follow the dosing instructions carefully and consult with a healthcare professional if you have any concerns.
  4. Stretching exercises: Gentle stretching exercises can help improve flexibility and reduce muscle tension, potentially reducing the frequency and severity of growing pains. An emphasis on stretching the calf at the ankle joint can provide relief to pain in the lower leg and foot.
  5. Supportive shoes: Ensuring your child is wearing a supportive and stiff soled shoe can prevent over-pronation of the foot which often contributes to the development of growing pains.
  6. Over the counter or custom orthotics: Controlling the motion of the hindfoot and addressing improper biomechanics of the lower extremity can be achieve through over the counter or custom orthotics.
  7. Physical therapy: A doctor who performs a complete biomechanical evaluation on your child may note weakness or instability of the lower extremity, and recommend formal physical therapy. Physical therapy can strengthen and address the instabilities causing the growing pains.

When to Seek Medical Attention:

While growing pains are typically harmless, there are certain signs and symptoms that may indicate a more serious underlying condition, such as:

  • Persistent or severe pain
  • Pain accompanied by swelling, redness, or warmth in the affected area
  • Difficulty walking or bearing weight on the affected leg
  • Pain that persists into adolescence or adulthood

If your child experiences any of these symptoms, it’s important to consult with one of our physicians for further evaluation and appropriate management!


Growing pains are a common occurrence in children. Parents can help alleviate their child’s discomfort and provide the support they need during periods of rapid growth and development. If you have any concerns about your child’s foot or leg pain, don’t hesitate to call us and schedule a consultation!

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