The Question: My eight year-old get leg pains when she’s sleeping-what causes them and what do we do?
Answer: “Growing pains” are the most common reason given for these late- night leg pains—and are found in up to 40 percent of children in some studies. No one really knows what causes growing pains, but it’s thought that rapid body growth stretches ligaments, tendons, or muscles, activating pain receptors in these tissues. While there’s no test to diagnose growing pains, you can try muscle massages and gentle stretching before bed or during painful episodes, which are the most commonly used treatments. You may also want to check with your doctor about supplementing with vitamin D—one study found that children with growing pains are more likely to have low D levels. It’s also important to watch that these aches are not associated with worrisome signs like inability to walk, fever, loss of appetite/weight, or fatigue. Be sure to see your doctor if any of these symptoms are present.
Lawrence D. Rosen, M.D., is the founder of the Whole Child Center in Oradell, New Jersey, and co-author of Treatment Alternatives for Children.
Have a question for Dr. Rosen? E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org