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Growing Pains

child with growing painsThe term growing pains refers to a whole range of muscular and joint pains in children. In very young children, 6 years of age or less, the most common sign of mechanical problems is an unwillingness to participate in physical activity. Complaints are far more likely to be I don’t want to do it , Can you carry me? or Can we go home / sit down? than actually a description of pain. As children get older and heavier, often there will be complaints of pain, tiredness, night cramps or requests for leg rubs. The majority of these will occur to the long muscles of the leg and will very often be due to a mechanical problem in the feet called pronation (or flat feet, collapsed arches, etc.). Pronation makes all of the muscles of the foot and leg work in a way that is not quite perfect.

For example, the shin muscles running down to the inside of the arch will be made longer and less straight by pronation. Both of these changes mean that the muscles have to squeeze harder to produce the same force. At the same time, because it is these muscles job to resist pronation, they have more work to do. The double disadvantage of more to do and less ability to achieve it makes the muscles work too hard and results in an overuse injury . This kind of problem has little to do with growing and more to do with becoming old enough to experience inflammation and to explain it in the same way adults do. These children are likely to have been complaining as described above when very young.

Likewise, they are likely to go on to be adults with foot problems because the factors that cause the pain don’t go away by themselves. Pain can occur inside bones at cartilage strips called growth plates. The heel bone and the point of bone just under the knee cap are the main locations but there are several others. These pains also have a strong relationship to misbehaving feet. If your child is suffering from aches and pains after exercise or avoiding physical activity, see a podiatrist for assessment. In the majority of cases the pain can be easily eliminated by correcting the feet.

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