Growing pains

What are growing pains? And what's a parent to do about them? Here's what our expert says.

Q: My seven-year-old has been waking in the night, complaining of aching legs. Could this be growing pains? Should we see a doctor and how do we help her?

A: The cause of this common complaint is not well understood. However, contrary to the name, the pain is not related to growth. Some of the theories about growing pains are that they result from: overuse of muscles in very active children; maintaining legs in one position for a long time; possible deficiency of calcium, potassium or magnesium in muscles; dehydration; and flat feet. The treatment suggestions follow those theories. Make sure your child drinks enough water during the day (few of us do!), get her to stretch before any vigorous exercise, and check her diet for calcium, potassium and magnesium.

Following Canada’s Food Guide can help ensure you are serving food with the appropriate amounts of vitamins and minerals. However, if you think there is a deficit, a multivitamin might be in order. Heat and massage before bed may help, as well as a warm bath in Epsom salts (grandma was right). If the pain is constantly in one leg, your child limps during the day or has daytime leg pains, or the pain is associated with fatigue, a trip to the doctor is needed.