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Children's Aches and Pains

  • Children’s aches and pains might sometimes be difficult for parents to understand. You may find your child with painful bumps and bruises from all the running, jumping and climbing that growing children do, or sometimes they may complain of pain in their legs without any obvious cause – often called “growing pains.”
  • Here, we share some information about a few common examples of body aches and pains in children. The bad news? They can make your child uncomfortable. The good news? There is suitable relief for these pains!

Types of aches and pains

  • Growing pains
  • Bumps and bruises

Frequent causes

  • More physical activity than usual
  • Poor posture
  • Emotional upset

What are common body pains in children?

A 2018 market research study by Nurofen* found that growing pains, muscular aches & pains and sprains/injuries are common causes of pain in children. Luckily, these pain occasions are usually described as mild.

experience growing pains

experience growing pains

experience muscular aches & pains

experience muscular aches and pains

experience sprains & injuries

experience sprains and injuries

When asked what triggered these types of pain, sport, activities and accidents were common responses – but interestingly, a lot of parents were unsure about the cause of growing pains.

Top 3 triggers

 

*Quantitative survey of 821 parents with children aged 0-12 years whose children suffered from pain symptoms in the past month, followed by diaries of 1,054 parents noting details of pain occasions.

Growing pains in children

So, what are growing pains in kids? The term ‘growing pain’ refers to harmless, recurrent muscular pain that is common in children. You may see growing pains in toddlers, particularly those aged 3-5 years, or in older children especially between 8-11 years old.† Some may even continue to get them into their teenage years. While they can be very painful, there is no actual damage happening to your child’s bones or muscles, and the pain shouldn’t cause a limp or make it hard to run or play normally.

†Better Health Channel (Department of Health, State Government of Victoria, Australia). Growing pains. Available here.

What does ‘growing pains’ feel like?

If your child complains of achy pains in the muscles of their legs, they might be experiencing growing pains. Here are some growing pains symptoms to consider:

muscular aches and pains

Muscular aches and pains felt in both legs

The aches are mainly found in the leg muscles, like the front of the thighs and their calves. Your child may also feel growing pains in knees but in the back of the knees rather than the joint itself (so moving the leg doesn’t affect the pain). The muscles of the arms are only occasionally affected.

pain that comes and goes

Pain that comes and goes

The aches may happen every night for a week or so, or a few times a week, or only occasionally – the important thing is that it is not persistent. Pain may last from a few minutes to hours. It may also occur on and off for several years.

typically occurs in the early evening

Typically occurs in the early evening or night

The pain tends to be worse during the night, particularly at bedtime, and may be severe enough to wake your child from their sleep. However, the pain is usually gone by morning.

If you are concerned in any way, see your doctor. You should also see your doctor if:

  • Your child is limping
  • They complain of pain during the day
  • The pain only affects one leg
  • Their pain is severe
  • They are unwell (e.g., fever, loss of appetite or rashes)
  • Their leg is sore to touch, or has swelling, reddening or tenderness

Causes of growing pains

While many parents may think that growing pains are caused by the growth of bones, the cause is actually unknown and bone growth hasn’t been proven to cause the pain. Some reasons that may contribute to growing pains include:

more physical activity

More physical activity than usual

Children’s muscles may get tired and sore if they move more than usual, though this doesn’t affect most children

poor posture

Poor posture

Children who stand, sit or walk awkwardly may put greater strain on the supporting muscles of their body


emotional upset

Emotional upset

Stress or unhappiness may trigger aches and pains, though this doesn’t affect most children

How to relieve growing pains in legs

If you are looking for growing pains treatment or are trying to figure out how to help relieve growing pains, here are some things you can try to comfort your child:

a gentle leg massage

A gentle leg massage

heat pack

A heat pack or warm bath

medicine

Medicines that reduce pain, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen

cuddles

Plenty of cuddles and reassurance that the pain will go away

Bumps and bruises

Children often injure themselves while playing, like falling over while playing sport or bumping into something. If you see swelling or discolouration, it might be a bump or a bruise.

These are common injuries that everyone will experience from time to time. Occasionally though, your child’s bump or bruise may be a more serious injury. Seek medical attention if you are concerned about your child’s injury for any reason, or if:

● Your child has intense pain
● They can’t move the injured body part, or it doesn’t work properly
● The injury is swelling and bruising very quickly

How to relieve bumps and bruises

While bumps, knocks and bruises can be painful, they are usually easy to treat. Here are a few things you can try to soothe your child’s pain:

rest

Rest the injured area

ice with a cold pack

Ice with a cold pack, or ice wrapped in a cloth

compress with a firm

Compress with a firm (but not tight) bandage

elevate

Elevate the injured area if possible

If necessary, you can also use an appropriate pain reliever containing ibuprofen, like Nurofen for Children.

Why ibuprofen can help

Ibuprofen reduces both inflammation and pain. It can be used for mild to moderate pain in children to help make their pain less severe and help them feel more comfortable. Ibuprofen is effective for relieving muscular aches and pains and can be used to treat pain from injuries.

Why Nurofen for Children can help your child

Nurofen for Children contains ibuprofen. It comes in a variety of formulations and can be used in children from 3 months to 12 years. Nurofen for Children liquid suspensions are sugar-free and colour-free and can be taken without food. For older kids, Nurofen for Children also comes as a soft chewable capsule suitable for children 7 years and older – they are easy to chew and don’t need to be taken with water, making them a convenient option.

Frequently Asked Questions

This article is for general information only and not intended as a substitute for medical advice. All information presented on these web pages is not meant to diagnose or prescribe. In all health-related matters, always consult your healthcare professional.

This medicine may not be right for you. Read the label before purchase. Follow the directions for use. Incorrect use could be harmful. If symptoms persist talk to your health professional. Not for use in babies under 3 months of age. RB-M-46738.