Growing pains: a noninflammatory pain syndrome of early childhood

Nat Clin Pract Rheumatol. 2008 Oct;4(10):542-9. doi: 10.1038/ncprheum0903. Epub 2008 Sep 2.


The term 'growing pains' has been used for almost 200 years to refer to the often severe, generally bilateral lower-extremity nocturnal pains experienced by up to one-third of all children at some time during early childhood. No clear mechanism has yet been identified that explains these pains, but there is an increasing body of evidence indicating that several factors, individually or in combination, might be responsible for this phenomenon. These include mechanical factors, such as joint hypermobility and flat feet, decreased pain thresholds, reduced bone strength, and emotional factors involving the patient's family and other social stressors. Correct diagnosis of growing pains requires a thorough patient history and physical examination. The diagnosis can be safely established without unnecessary laboratory investigations or imaging; however, identification of one or more clinical cautionary signs, such as unilateral pain, morning stiffness, joint swelling and systemic symptoms (e.g. fever, weight loss and malaise), should trigger an extended evaluation to exclude other more serious conditions that might also present with limb pain. Once the diagnosis has been established, conservative management, using symptomatic pain medications, massage and other supportive measures, should be employed until the syndrome self-resolves with time.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Extremities
  • Growth / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Joint Instability
  • Musculoskeletal Diseases / complications
  • Musculoskeletal Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Musculoskeletal Diseases / physiopathology
  • Musculoskeletal Manipulations
  • Pain / diagnosis*
  • Pain / etiology
  • Pain / physiopathology
  • Syndrome