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A familiar scene in our house is me sitting quietly on the couch, lights dimmed, enjoying the last few minutes of silence before heading up to bed. I get up and start putting things away and I hear a sudden cry coming from upstairs. I go into Declan’s room and he’s sitting in his bed, crying uncontrollably while holding his leg. He can’t stop crying long enough to tell me what’s wrong, but I already know because we do this frequently.

Growing pains.

Which is kind of misleading because there’s no actual proof that it’s caused by growing anyway. Supposedly it’s more related to the crazy amount of physical activity kids do, even if it’s just running and jumping around the house. I do know this is true- I notice an increase in the times this happens when we do a long walk or hike, or he’s jumping on a trampoline. However, just because they can’t prove it’s not directly related to growing, I wouldn’t be surprised if it does have something to do with it. I mean, you see how fast our kids grow. It’s absolutely insane. So unless you gave birth to Stretch Armstrong then I wouldn’t doubt rapid growth is fatiguing.

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The pain is related to the muscles and ligaments more than it is bones, is almost always in the legs and almost always bilateral, or at least alternating legs each time it happens. Worst of all, it’s almost always at night. If the pain is constant and occurring during the day, it’s probably worth mentioning to your child’s pediatrician. If you notice any rashes or lumps/bumps in the pain area (outside of an isolated injury of course), fevers, or limping around during the day, it needs to be checked out. Growing pains are painful, but aren’t associated with anything you can physically see.

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So what can you do? Mostly comfort measures. Leg massages, applying heat (a rice sock is amazing for these situations), and making sure they are hydrated. A warm bath before bed can help relax the muscles, and adding a bit of epsom salts (magnesium) can help too. Most literature you will find on growing pains basically states that there’s no definite proof of what causes it and there’s no definite proof of what can relieve it and the comfort measures stated before are recommended. For me personally, when I was pregnant and experiencing leg cramps I know that magnesium and potassium uptake helped so I’ve done this with Declan and it seems to help significantly. Most normal healthy people get enough magnesium from foods, hence why it’s not always added in multivitamins, but given how picky some kids can be, I wouldn’t doubt that they don’t always get in the amount recommended. Magnesium rich foods include dark leafy greens (yeah, I know, I can hear you laughing from here), nuts, seeds, fish, bananas, avocados, and lots more. I’ve noticed a big difference in Declan’s episodes by adding some of these things to a smoothie in the morning. They do have magnesium supplements for children too, but check with your ped first before giving, especially if your child is already taking a multivitamin with magnesium in it.

Most importantly, stretch! Get down on the floor with your child and do some leg stretches. If you’re into yoga, include your child! I am about as capable at yoga as a drunken sloth but I can do leg stretches with Declan and they’ve been enough. Take comfort in knowing that most growing pains happen in the preschool years so it’s not forever.

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All these little things popping up is tough. It feels like there’s always something, you know? Just remember that being a kid is even tougher. So do some stretches, eat some bananas, and I’ll cross my fingers for you tonight.