Growing pains are not really “growing pains” but pains that kids experience for other reasons.
I had growing pains when I was a kid – bad enough that I would head to my parent’s bedroom at night as ask them to beat on my legs hard enough to block the pain. Sure I was “growing” but I wasn’t having pain for that reason. Growing pains is one of those conditions that I love to treat because it is usually so easy to resolve as long as the kid follows the dietary recommendations. It’s like Osgood-Schlatter’s Syndrome – a lot of kids have it and it’s so unnecessary for them to deal with for months, sometimes years. Growing pains are typically due to either a toxicity or a deficiency. The toxicity often is from hydrogenated “trans” fats which most kids eat a lot of. I did at that age. The toxicity can also be from histamine, which the body makes when there is an allergy – food or environmental. So food allergies are common reasons for this toxicity. Gut toxicity from unhealthy bugs in the digestive tract can also result in growing pains, and this is many times fueled by a high carbohydrate/sugar diet. So since a lot of kids eat a high sugar and hydrogenated fat diet, you can see why they may get those “growing pains”. The other reason is the deficiency. So the other side of the coin here in respect to trans fats is the good fats – meaning a deficiency of healthy fats such as omega 3 (fish, flax, walnuts) and omega 6 (nuts & seeds) fats. Sometimes a deficiency in the saturated fats from dairy are the answer too. I see many kids deficient in these fats because their pediatrician or parents think they are bad for them. Heavy cream, butter, cheese, and to some extent ice cream provide fats kids need, (adults too, but lower amounts). My kids eat a lot of butter, cream, and whole raw milk. Coconut milk is great too. Only once did one of them get “growing pains” and it was because she needed more fat in her diet. If you’ve read about trans fats on my website you know that if you ever take an anti-inflammatory drug (NSAIDs) and feel any improvement, it means you have a fatty acid deficiency and/or a trans fat excess in your diet. Minerals such as calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus that are lacking in the diet can also be the reason for growing pains. Interestingly, these minerals are responsible for healthy bone growth but it is just a coincidence that their deficiency can result in growing pains.
Thank you for this! My child was in absolute agony today. Writhing in pain. And what you say here totally makes sense. She has eaten a lot less fats this week. She usually has grass fed butter by the spoonful, and raw cheese daily, but this week we changed up breakfast and I think it might be attributing to her leg pain.
My son has had pain in his one calf for the past few days. Everyone is telling me growing pains. Its during the night a little and most of the day.
Kathrine Carroll says
“The whole key is to understand what growing pains are, and what they aren’t,” says Lehman. “A child with growing pains will have no daytime pain, no limp, no other abnormality. But when the child gets pain during the day — and the pains are persistent or abnormally severe — the child needs to see a doctor.” Thomas J. A. Lehman, MD, chief of pediatric rheumatology for the Hospital for Special Surgery at Weill Medical College of Cornell University. Lehman is the author of It’s Not Just Growing Pains. He’s seen it too many times: “Virtually every child with arthritis has been dismissed as ‘just having growing pains,'” Lehman tells WebMD. “And because proper diagnosis is delayed — sometimes for months — there are irretrievable circumstances.”
Hello!! It is so refreshing to hear that Osgood Schlatter may be treatable. Our son is 12 and 6 feet tall. He obviously has gone through some growth spurts in the past few years. He is extremely active in soccer, cross country running and many other sports. He has been told to rest it, ice and heat it and take anti-inflammatory drugs, but he has not seen any relief and is ready to be back in sports. We live in Alaska, where do you recommend we go for alternative treatment? He eats a very healthy diet, compared to his peers.
We are eager to hear back!! Thank you for posting so much information.
Not sure in Alaska – you’d have to ask around. Good luck!
What else do you recommend for a nutrition change to counter Osgood Schlatter? We eat clean anyway (not much refined sugar or processed foods at all), but realize through research that a higher intake of Omega oils and some added vitamins and minerals may help. Do you suggest a specific diet with supplements to help hydrate the knee so so speak?
thanks so very much.
It’s very individualized. I’ve seen kids with OS who have needed vit D, some with food allergies, and some with structural imbalances that needed to be addressed.
My daughter is going through leg pains at night. It’s been going on for a few months on and off. She’s five. Going to the doctor on Monday to be looked at. So far it’s at night. No swelling or redness. She has been on a low fat dairy diet. Due to her being border line over weight. So, after reading your article on diet being a factor and some of the things lacking is fats, I’m wondering if low fat milk is the best route. I limit the fattening foods. Especially fast foods to maybe once a month. If that. So, I guess my main question is how do you know or test what it is that might be causing it. From all the possibilities you mentioned in your article.
You can’t associate unhealthy fats from fast food with what you are perceiving to be unhealthy fats in dairy. They’re very different types of fats. I don’t think kids should be eating low fat (adults either) and they need fats from dairy, nuts, seeds, meats, eggs, and coconut. Typically the more the better. And never any hydrogenated, refined, or fried fats.
Your website is very informational. My son has been dealing with “Growing Pains” for 10 years! Are you suggesting increasing some of the minerals and good fats in his diets to see if that helps? I have been to many doctors and they said that he nneds to grow out of them. When? It’s been 10 years!!!
Yes I am suggesting that a healthier diet and more healthy fats (pasture beef, egg yolks, butter, coconut oil, fish oil, raw nuts/seeds) and sometimes minerals can help tremendously with this.
Kathrine Carroll says
I would hope that you put forth more information on what is “growing pains” and what is NOT. My son suffered for 4 years with a misdiagnosis of “growing pains” until we were luck enough to find a real doctor who discovered my son had polymyositis. unfortunately his left leg has permanently lost range of motion and he will always have a limp. Be careful and be adamant on the symptoms, they are always at night and NOT throughout the day, there is NO limp, and persistent pain with no relief , the parent should get a second opinion.
Jessica okon says
My son, 5, just started with pain in both legs intermittently throughout the day and often right before bed. Sometimes he even wakes up with pain. He’s never experienced this before and with 4 kids he’s my first. I also believe he had started with allergies as he gets the sniffles on and off. He has had a cbc done at his pediatrician with normal reads. Should I assume this is growing pains? Everything I read says they shouldn’t occur during the day. Thank you for your help
They can occur any time though more commonly at night.
My daughter has been dealing with leg/knee/ankle pain for about 3 months now. Usually the pain starts in her leg or knee in the evening, and will always wake her in the night. Then after these episodes (which are about twice a week) she’ll always complain of foot pain in the morning, until about 10am. It’s so frustrating and scary! I’ve taken her to her dr. Who said growing pains. It’s so hard to watch. I’ve just started giving her a vitamin d supplement and switched her back to whole milk. Any other suggestions?
Best advice I can give you is what’s in the article. Sometimes magnesium can help. Fats (like in the whole milk), typically take about three weeks to take effect.
What are your suggestions for a child that is lactose intolerant? My daughter (4) has terrible growing pains in her right leg. We took her off milk because it was causing severe stomach pain. Is there a supplement that I can give her?
I won’t give specific recommendations like that but I will say that most often this is not from a lack of dairy (calcium) but other minerals from a complete, wholesome diet – or too many refined carbohydrates and vegetable oils.
Do you have specific food that you recommend? We eat fairly healthy, and don’t eat many grains or processed foods. For oil, I mostly use Olive Oil. She likes fruit and eats a lot of apples and bananas. She will also eat most meats. Are there some specific things I could offer to her for snacks that would help to get the nutrients that she needs to help reduce these pains? (We do notice the pain is much more on days she has been very active.) I have taken her to the family dr. and they have ruled out juvenile arthritis.
High-fat healthy foods such as pasture eggs (yolk), grass-fed butter & cream, and grass-fed beef.
I was just looking at Smarty Pants Vitamins on Amazon. My five year old son does get leg cramps on and off during the night. His doctor today recommended taking a TUMS everyday and adding more vitamin D in his diet. What do you think? Thank you!
TUMS is a terrible source of calcium and will often result in stomach and GI distress with prolonged use.
You mention no pain during the day. (My 4 year old has has leg cramps since he was 2.5. He tends to walk tip toed. We have broke most of that habit.) He is built very stocky. Sometimes it seems if he sits he gets stiff. It takes him a couple steps to get loosened up. Also sitting on his knees or on the toilet seat seems to cut blood circulation. Then he can’t stand right away. He takes a min to let blood flow back to his toes. At night when his legs cramp it shifted from his feet (2yo) to now his shins. Last night he wouldn’t let me rub his legs bc he hurt so bad. When the pain comes on he can’t walk or stand. We try to get him to stretch but he can’t walk it off. Any thoughts / suggestions are greatly appreciated!!
This is something that needs to be looked into further with an office visit. It could be something as simple as a nutrient imbalance or more complex like a vascular or connective tissue disorder.
Noel Reed says
My 5 yr old granddaughter just had leg cramps so bad she could not put weight on them upon rising. After she woke up more she was able to bear weight on the right leg. The PCP said it was because she overused them in PE. Kourtney said she was sweaty. Today it’s worse, they’re swollen and red. Should they go to a pediatrician?
Dr. Stephen Gangemi says
I can’t give you personal advice but it’s highly unlikely that she overused her legs in PE – that would have to be some extreme level of activity which was much more than ever before. Diet is so important for everybody, including kids – so look at cleaning that up where necessary. When my boy gets cramps typically some fish oil (1-2tsp of a good quality like Nordic Naturals) and around 100mg of magnesium (citrate) takes care of them pretty quickly.
Thanks for this. Great info! Wondering what to do while they do have them? I’ve been rubbing Ancient Minerals magnesium cream on his shins at night. Maybe I should be rubbing arnica cream? Any tips? My son is 6. Thanks!
Dr. Stephen Gangemi says
Healthy fats are key and a low sugar anti-inflammatory diet.
I am wondering if having these “growing pains” when I was a child, has any relationship to the severe restless legs syndrome that I struggle with now. They were painful enough as a child, that I would spend many nights sitting in tubs of hot water or having my parents rub my legs vigorously. Now, I get the most relief for my rls by sitting in tubs of very hot water.
Thank u so so much for ur article. My son suffers from HORRIBLE pains in his legs so I
am definitely going to implement the information u have provided. I’ll let u know how it goes!
My 17 year old daughter has pain in her back and behind her knees since 4 years old. Doctors find nothing. It still brings her to tears when it gets real bad which is 50% of the time. Is she lacking nutrients or minerals? Would infrared heating pad help?
Dr. Stephen Gangemi says
I cannot say what is exactly going on with her but as you’ve read in the article, minerals and fats are common reasons for those pains. Personally I don’t recommend and IR pad.
Thank you for the interesting article. My son has had “growing pains” for two years and i have tried everything from supplements to baths in epsom salt and dead sea salt and homeopathy.everything helps a little but he still gets them. We also avoid additives in food and drinks. so far the best results i get is going on seaside holiday! This is when he does not get them even though he walks a lot there and is very active.
However, his eating habbits are poor, he eats lot of bread, fresh fruit and veg, but nit much else. His stool is floating so I limit his diary intake but he still gets some at school or in icecream. He has pollen allergies. Any suggestions? And yes, we are moving to a seaside town!
Stu Ramsay says
Our 5 year old son has sporadic bouts of severe leg and ankle pain. Always at night with big tears. He doesn’t have any pain during the day and never had problems running about or playing like other kids. Unfortunately he is allergic to dairy, raw egg and nuts and this is why I know there must be link between them as he js not one to fake the paid for attention.
Seeing him in agony and tears when it comes is heartbreaking.
Yes, he has soya milk with breakfast cereals and soya yoghurt / milk shakes. Thankfully, he loves savoury foods, so will eat lots of chicken, beef stews, soups and steak pie or fish. He will have potatoes and fries, but it’s the usual (kids) struggle to get him to eat enough veg, but he’s OK with it. He likes carrot but peas and broccoli are harder to persuade.
He also loves fruit and eats oranges, satsumas, apples, bananas, melon and he eats apples till the cows come home.
Our paediatrician and a dietitian encourage us to introduce staged milk products like (baked in) cake then on to regular yoghurt and then cheese. He simply doesn’t like the taste and is highly suspicious of them. For that reason, he’ll only eat a tiny amount. Even if we don’t tell him, he knows by the taste alone. If he does eat regular milk, he will start to itch around the neck and little spots or redness will appear around his mouth. He might itch on the body too.
I wonder what alternatives we can give him to boost his Omega 3 (I knows it’s common in fish) and omega 6 (common in nuts but a no-go for us.)
Dr. Stephen Gangemi says
Easiest is to get a high quality fish oil. Sometimes magnesium or calcium is the issue here too, or another mineral. I don’t think anyone should be drinking soy milk or consuming any refined soy products.
This is really interesting to read. Whats the reasoning behind the excessive trans fat other than that it is inflammatory?
My son has been having night leg pains for years now. The thing I have noticed though, his that he has it in winter, and not as much in summer. I also think he is not digesting fats very well, he has extremely dry skin. In summer he wakes in the morning sneezing, which i believe is also due to high histamine, but there’s no leg pain, in these seasons.
Dr. Stephen Gangemi says
Well the main reason is how they increase inflammatory level and lower anti-inflammatory fats from doing their job properly.
Hi, I have a 4yr old son who complains and wake up in the middle of the night crying about his legs hurting, i tried massaging them and put something warm on them. I have no idea what to do in order to make it stop, i’ll contact his pédiatrique and see what’s the problem. He eats well but maybe needs a little more fatty acids to his diet. Whats ur advice on what to do here, please?