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Kids Don’t Feel Pain from Growing

While growing up can be a pain, “growing pain” itself is a fiction.

This article was first published in The Skeptical Inquirer.

For children, “growing pains” can be a source of fear and distress as your body aches in a way no one can do much to help with. For parents, they can be a source of anxiety, as they worry that something more serious is wrong or fret over their inability to help their child. I do not doubt the reality that children feel pains in their limbs, usually lower, that we adults call “growing pains.” They just don’t have anything to do with growing.

As this 2011 article defines, “Growing pain is a frequent noninflammatory syndrome consisting of intermittent, often annoying, pains that affect the lower extremities of children.” They’re present in an estimated 40 percent of children. They’re usually not a sign of anything more serious. They almost always resolve themselves with time. But that doesn’t take away from the fact that for kids experiencing them, they’re scary and unpleasant.

When it comes to what exactly causes growing pains, the truth is that we’re not sure. But we do know that they don’t correlate to periods of growth. At least one study has found that children who experience growing pains have lower pain thresholds than those who don’t, potentially implicating pain tolerance, but more research is needed.

Treatment-wise, you can think of addressing growing pains like you would any sore muscle: hot compresses, age-appropriate pain killers, and a lot of chocolate and snuggles.


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