Growing Pains: Real But Difficult to Diagnose

Growing pains are a real, physical condition, experienced by as many as 40% of kids, but they can be difficult to pinpoint and treat

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You’ve probably heard of growing pains, but Cole Henninger, 11, has felt them. The fifth grader from Wheaton explained where it hurts the most.

“My legs, the inner parts and then you get down to the knees and it’s a little painful there,” Henninger said, gesturing down both of his legs.

The 11-year-olds' mother, Sarah Henninger, said it’s hard to watch at times.

“Just (him) being uncomfortable," she said. "But it’s not every night. It’s not consistent."

Dr. Jeremy Alland is a sports medicine doctor at Midwest Orthpaedics at Rush who has treated patients suffering from growing pains.

“Up to one in five kids can have growing pains," Dr. Alland said. "So we know it’s a real thing and we know it affects a lot of kids."

Common between the ages of three and 13, Dr. Alland explained that growing pains aren’t coming from bones or joints, but are believed to be a muscular issue.

“It’s usually in the legs. It’s usually at night," he said. "Honestly, oftentimes it will wake kids up. They’ll have lots of pain."

Growing pains can be hard to diagnose.

“We need to rule out everything else to make sure it actually is growing pains, because, like I said before, there’s no test for growing pains,” Dr. Alland said.

Sarah Henninger’s other two sons, Carter, 15, and Cole’s twin brother Landon, 11, have both been diagnosed with Osgood–Schlatter disease, which is inflammation of the growth plate at the top of the shin bone. The disease is often associated with growing pains, but Cole’s aches have been different, leaving her wondering what to do.

Dr. Alland recommends, a “simple massage, especially the areas that are bothering the kids. Heat tends to work pretty well. Ibuprofen or Tylenol tends to work pretty well.”

He went on to say that growing pains are often associated with both legs. If only one side is hurting and there is any redness or swelling, that could be a different issue and should get checked out by a doctor.

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