Berkeley Parents Network >
Advice about Health >
My little boy wakes up sometimes because his legs hurt. I have
heard about ''growing Pain'' and wonder if that's what this is?
If it is growing pains, is that something that should be
treated? It seems to be for a few nights, every other month or
so. Should I be worried about it? He says it doesn't hurt in
the day time? Also, it seems to be around his knees and has
been both legs. I don't have insurance and have to pay at the
Doctors, so, I don't take them in unless I need to. Do I need
I want him to be OK!!!
I can't diagnose your child, but I will tell you about my
experience with my son. He also has growing pains from time to
time, especially around his knees. I talked to the pediatrician
about it, and he said that it's a temporary phase and there isn't
much you can do about it. Stretching can be beneficial. If it's
really bad, then some Advil. But otherwise, he'll grow out of
it. In short, don't be too alarmed.
Been there!!! My now 13 yo has had leg pains exactly as you
describe. He'd get them every few months or every few weeks for
a few days on and off...only at night, whether he was growing
or not. WHat helped him was massage and hot water bottles.
About 6 months ago my son went on a gluten free diet and his
leg pains stopped. No one ever suggested the pain could be food
allergy related but I think this is too glaring to be a
It might be worth a try. Gluten is a very common allergy and
most symptoms would not make you think ''oh, gluten...''
Good luck....also they could wear off as your son gets older,
which also happens.
We have struggled with the exact same thing for over 3 years,
so I know your pain (although we can't know our sons'). I have
brought it up with each and every doctor and they have all
dismissed it (some more lightly than others) as essentially
growing pains that are real, esp. at the younger age, but may
be ''imagined'' at an older age, in an attempt for
consolation/attention, etc. My son is now 5, and the pain is
much more sporadic (ie. once every couple of months now, as
opposed to almost once a week before), but like your son, it
was always at night, and eventually ended up being in just one
knee, not both.
I was completely freaked out about it for a long time, and I
still have moments of anxiety about it. But it is usually
allayed by the fact that if I lay with him and rub his knee,
and occassionally give him a couple drops of Motrin, it all
I still bring it up with his doctor though, just to be sure he
is aware that it persists. But I am (finally) at peace with the
Mom of a Pain in the Knee
My son has complained of growing pains intermittently over the
past 2-3 years. He is seven now. The doctor said they are real
and fairly common. She said the vast majority of the time they
are just that - growing pains - sometimes they can just be
muscle fatigue because the little guy plays so much and so hard
during the day - and very occasionally they have to do with
shoes and structural development - but usually just growing
pains. For my son acknowleging them goes a long way towards
getting him to sleep. Sometimes I give him a hot water bottle
and that helps him. Very rarely I have given him Children's
Tylenol. I don't want him to think that the medication is his
panacea so I go for the first two things when I can...Good luck
and know that it is almost certainly not serious.
My son has growing pains too
I had growing pains as a child (would wake up in the middle of
the night because my legs hurt) and both my girls (now 4 and 7)
had them. They felt like cramps (charlie horse?) and I believe
they have nothing to do with growing and everything to do with
over-exertion during the day and the build up of lactic acid (or
whatever) in the muscles.
When I was a child my mother would put hot (I mean HOT) towels on
my legs and that would take away the pain. Or use a heating pad.
For my girls, at first I would give them Motrin (which works
like a charm within 5 minutes). But I started to worry about
over-medicating them (even though it was only 2 or 3 times a week
at most). So if they complain at night before bed that their
legs hurt, I get out a heating pad and wrap their leg up on the
high setting for at least 15 minutes. It needs to be hot (but of
course, not burning). This usually does the trick. But if they
wake up in the middle of the night, then we use the motrin.
Other things that have worked for me are massaging their legs but
that takes more effort on my part than I have at the end of the day.
My 7 year old rarely gets these pains anymore. But my 4 year old
still does once or twice a month. It seemed to happen more
frequently when they were younger.
a condensed version of advice i recently saw elsewhere about this:
Growing pains are usually a multiple mineral issue. It helps to
understand how bones are laid down. Here's a bone 101:
Bone is made of a criss cross collagen matrix. To ''grow'' good
bones vitamin C is necessary to make collagen. But to make
collagen, you have to have a good food source of gelatin. The
collagen forms bonds with calcium. In order to have good calcium
bonds, Vitamin K is necessary to pull in the calcium and help
bond it to the collagen If children won't eat fresh greens, or
other vitamin K foods, then that causes problems pulling the
calcium in. If there isn't enough magnesium, then the calcium
won't be stable in the bones, and lack of magnesium is usually
linked with cramp. Vitamin D, boron and silica are important for
structural strength... a lot goes into laying down strong bones,
which are also flexible.
With children there is a huge increase in bone growth going on.
They need a really good mineral rich, natural diet to help that.
The old idea of cod liver oil, and blackstrap molasses was not as
stupid as it sounded.
If you google foods looking for the main bone minerals, you
should be able to find good selections. If you see that they are
primarily foods he doesn't like, then you might have an idea what
the problems stems from. If they are foods he does like, then
increase them across as broad a range as possible, and hopefully
it will work out.
But not much will work out if she's not getting enough vitamin C,
because without that, the collagen matrix will be vastly
decreased, therefore so will her calcium bonding, and the bones
won't form properly. If it gets really bad and really chronic,
and an X-ray is taken, you can see ''Harris lines'' on certain
bones, which are sort of like ''tide marks'' marking the places
where there wasn't enough vitamin C.
Usually, it rights itself if there is a good enough diet. But if
there is not, and say, she fractures a bone and on the X-ray they
see Harris lines, then they will tell you (if they actually
understand what they are seeing, and that is a moot point) that
you need to attend to her diet. Most doctors though, don't know
the nutritional pathways to strong bones, so they aren't likely
to suggest much beyond vitamin C, if that, let alone discuss the
whole of it. Anyway, that's only a brief overview.
~more minerals for all!
the post above gives some suggestions for fixing things in the
long term. in the short term, taking a trace mineral supplement
(drops diluted in water), and some magnesium, calcium and
potassium can help. ''natural calm plus calcium'' (a
magnesium/calcium supplement) also has potassium. here's the
natural calm ''infomercial'' website:
a good trace mineral supplement is concentrace:
both products are cheaper at vitacost.com
food sources of potassium are easily googled. here's one list:
~more minerals for all!
My neighbor (5 yo) suffers from it and uses a hot water bottle at
But as to insurance--have you applied for Healthy Families? You
should be able to get insurance for your son ($6/month) through
My son has this insurance. If you have not investigated this
option and are interested, look up www.healthyfamilies.ca.gov.
If you have any questions I would be happy to talk to you.
My daughters have both had ''growing pains'' in their legs, but mostly
during the day.
Another little girl we know (4) had it at night and in the mornings.
Her knees were
very stiff and painful, and the parents took her to 2 doctors. She was
even tested for
arthritis, and none was found. They said to give her children's Advil
and it would go
away. It did, after a couple months, and she is now pain free. Best of
My 7 y. old daughter has had these occasionally for a few years.
It can be extremely painful, yet one Tylenol relieves the pain
and she's asleep again within 5 minutes. I believe there is a
homeopathic remedy that can also be helpful. The pediatrician
says that as long as these pains do not inhibit daily activity,
it's no problem.
I had growing pains as a kid, but in the crevice line at the
tops of my legs. Why not rub some arnica gel on the aching
Had to respond to Growing Pains--
I WAS in the same boat I have a 4 yr old now. Growth spurts
are pretty common at this age & we also went through agonizing
night terrors (maybe the growing pains woke him in the deep
sleep patterns, not sure). We're pretty much over it & I use
AB CALM purchased at Whole Foods. Best thing I ever purchased,
mix it in his milk before bed time. AB Calm is a ''freeze dried
Instant Calcium Magnesium drink'' even the pkging states
prevents leg cramps. I take it on occasion to help me get to
sleep too. Keep it in the fridge & it's a life saver. My
toddler was a very picky eater & I'm sure not always getting
all his vitamins & minerals (& he was a breastfed kid for 2
We never used painkillers (thought about it), just soothing hot
waterbottles/hot stuffed bears.
--He'll be OK soon!
I had growing pains behind my knees as a child. They would wake
me from my sleep and were very painful when I was young. My
parents would massage behind my knees and apply heat. The pains
became far less severe over time, but actually lasted until I was
in college. They became less frequent and much less painful long
before that, though. When I was a teen, I would take
acetomenophin or ibuprofen, which got rid of the ache. The
bright side, I would say, is that I remember those nights with my
mom or dad rubbing my leg and helping me with the pain warmly--
they are nice memories of my parents' love. By the way, I always
had a pretty balanced, healthful diet, so I don't think it was a
nutrient lack-- but, who knows! They've probably learned more
about these things since the '80s.
My five and a half year old girl has been complaining that her
knees and shins hurt. It's usually at night, after she's been
curled up reading on the couch. It's not consistent, but two
nights this week she woke up out of a deep sleep weeping with
pain. I put arnica gel on her shins, and this seemed to help a
little, but the second night I was compelled to give her
Children's Motrin to help ease the pain so she could go back to
sleep. She walks normally and doesn't complain at all about her
legs hurting during the day. In the morning following these
episodes, she says she feels fine. I should add that she's a
very tall girl for her age. Has anyone out there had experience
with this? I'm calling her doctor this week, but short of
getting X-rays (which I'd rather avoid unless there's reason to
think there's something really dire going on), but in the
meantime, I'm hoping some parent out there can suggest what
might be going on. Thanks very much,
I remember growing pains as a child, and they really hurt! I
had them in first or second grade and again at about 10 yrs of
age. The best help I found then, and that I still see
recommended, is calcium. A big glass of milk or some cheese,
etc., right before bedtime may help. Massaging the legs helps
as well. Good luck!
My 7 1/2 year old son has had ''growing pains'' since he was about
4 or so. They come and go in phases. Pains in his legs and or
feet, usually at night. Just as you described he would sometimes
wake up crying at night. I've used Arnica with minimal success
but Calcarea Phosphorica seemed to do the trick most of the
time. He refuses to take aspirin of any sort. Massage helps and
also a hot water bottle on his feet or legs (wet heat, not a
heating pad)or a warm bath if it's a reasonable hour.
I tried good shoes with no change. It was suggested that the
cause was possibly a calcium deficiency so we tried chewable
calcium supplements...the pains left for a while but then came
Lately he hasn't had them so I'm hoping he's done...we'll see.
My pediatrician said no one really knows why some kids get pains
in their legs and feet. It would make sense that if the bones
are quickly growing it would affect the muslces and could cause
pain. I hope this is helpful to you.
Both my daughter (4.5 yrs) and I suffered from these ''growing
pains'' as my mother used to call them. My mom used to give me
children's asprin and a hot water bottle and I seem to recall it
helping. At the suggestion of a friend, I started giving my
daughter chewable calcium/magnesium supplements (purchased at
Whole Foods) after supper / before bed. She calls them her ''leg
sick vitamins''. Her growing pains have largely gone away,
although she is occasionally (once a month) awoken by leg pain.
Then I bring her the hot water bottle and that seems to provide
relief. Good luck!
My seven-year-old has had occasional growing pains for several
years. She, too, is tall for her age. What you describe is
exactly what she experiences, pain during the night in the shins
or knees, bad enough to wake her up, but fine during the day. I
just give her tylenol. You can check with your pediatrician,
but I really don't think it's anything to worry about.
From the recent literature I've read, it seems that a growing
number of researchers are arguing that ''growing pains'' are not
really what their name leads us to think they are. There is
purportedly much research showing that kids who have ''growing
pains'' have rheumatological problems as grown-ups. The most
common of these problems is fibromyalgia. I have read over and
over again articles insisting that it should NOT hurt to grow.
There is probably something else going on. I keep thinking
fibromyalgia as I read your post, not only because of
the ''growing pains'' but also because of your observation that
the pain occurs mostly at night and mostly in the legs. This is
a common thing with kids with fibromyalgia.
Please don't let your doctor blow this off.
I recommend browsing articles online and also if possible
reading Dr. Paul St. Amand's book What your Doctor may not tell
you about Pediatric Fibromyalgia, which offers, among other
things, just about the only comprehensive overview of the
symptomatology of pediatric fibromyalgia. Doctors in general,
and even in the Bay Area, are extremely ignorant when it comes
to these things.
Good luck with your search to help your child.
Every week or two, our 8 year old daughter has leg/foot/hand pain.
Last night she woke up 4 times with pain--first it was her right leg,
then her left leg, then her right foot, and finally her right hand.
She is a very heavy sleeper, so I imagine the pain was quite intense
for it to wake her up. She has been unable to give us a description
of what kind of pain (e.g. sharp, throbbing, achey)it is. We didn't
give her Tylenol last night, but we have in the past and it seems to
help. We've talked to the pediatrician about this and she didn't have
anything definitive to say about it. A couple of theories are:
these are growing pains (although it's the joints that are supposed
to hurt, and our daughter's joints don't hurt); leg cramps due to
dehydration or too much strenuous activity. I would appreciate hearing
from other parents who have children experiencing any of these symptoms.
Just an idea: I remember my best friend growing up had leg pains a lot,
and we used to rub her legs with oil of wintergreen, which is
over-the-counter available at pharmacies. She did not have joint
pain either. She called them "legaches"! Good luck!
When I was about 6 years old, I experienced aches and pains in my legs.
Although I don't remember what time of day they would occur most often,
I do remember they bothered me quite a bit. Probably within a year of
when these aches first occurred, I was tested for food allergies and
found that I was allergic to cow's milk. My parents stopped giving me
milk, which I quickly lost my taste for, and put me on calcium
supplements and the pains went away. Up until my late twenties, if I
ever drank more than 8 oz. of milk, I would still get the same kind of
leg aches. Also, I would only have this
reaction from drinking milk, not from eating dairy products like cheese
or ice cream. I still have other allergic reactions to milk (sinus
problems), but the leg aches are finally gone. I know this sounds kind
of weird, and I've never heard of anybody else having the same kind of
reaction, but this might be a theory to explore.
My eleven-year old son complained of his legs and ankles hurting so I
started giving him chewable vitamin B-12 which my doctor had adviced I
take as part of treatment for my occassional leg cramps, headheaches and
iron absorption problems. He has not complained of the leg pains for
the past few months since he has taken the B-12 in the morning with his
chewable daily vitamin and breakfast.
My son had pains also, mostly in his legs (not specifically the joints).
We went so far as to have them x-rayed. Nothing. Normal. His doctor
decided they were growing pains, so we all stopped worrying about them.
They'd come and go and now have gone for good.
I'd suggest a couple of home remedies if your doctor can also find no
cause for your child's pains: try a heating pad with him in bed at
night. Or try ice packs. Try one of those stretchy bandages. (These
plus a bandaid cure a lot of aches and pains!) Good luck.
this page was last updated: Feb 6, 2010
BPN is now a 501(c)(3) non-profit and we are building a new website!
Read more, and see how you can help:
The opinions and statements expressed on this website
are those of parents who subscribe to the
Berkeley Parents Network.
Disclaimer & Usage for
information about using content on this website.
Copyright © 1996-2015 Berkeley Parents Network