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    Is It Growing Pains or Something More Serious?

    By Bethany Afshar
    WebMD Feature
    Reviewed by David Zelman, MD

    Your child wakes up in the middle of the night in pain, with a tight grip on her leg. A little TLC gets her back to sleep. You chalk it up to growing pains and get back in bed yourself.

    But then it happens again. And again. Now you ask yourself: Could it be something more serious?

    You Grow So Fast It Hurts

    Almost 2 out of every 5 kids get growing pains. It happens when they're young children and pre-teens, right around the time of their growth spurts. It usually makes their legs ache, mostly in their thighs, calves, or in the back of the knees.

    No one knows for sure where the pain comes from, but there are plenty of theories. Bone growth doesn’t hurt, though -- keep in mind, it isn’t just the bones in kids' legs that are getting bigger.

    “As children are growing fairly rapidly, their muscles, tendons, and ligaments are growing as well,” says Jason Homme, MD, assistant professor of pediatrics at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN. Those body parts "may not be growing at the same pace, which can cause protesting a little bit.”

    The aches and pains can also simply be from all the running, jumping, and playing during the day. If your family has a history of restless leg syndrome, your child might have that instead. There are other possible causes, too. It could be a psychological issue or even a lack of vitamin D in her diet.

    What Can You Do?

    You can help your child through the pain with these simple techniques.

    If the pains come and go, the best answer is just to comfort your child, says Thomas J.A. Lehman, MD, chief of the division of pediatric rheumatology at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York.

    When to Call the Doctor

    These symptoms can mean it’s something more serious than growing pains:

    • Your child hurts for a long time, throughout the day.
    • The pain is there in the morning.
    • She still hurts long after getting an injury.
    • Her joints ache.
    • She has a fever.
    • She gets unusual rashes.
    • She limps or favors one leg.
    • She’s tired or weak.
    • She’s less active than usual.

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