Common Growing Pains in Kids – Explained!

Common Growing Pains in Kids – Explained!


As parents ourselves, we know how it feels to have a child in pain and not being able to do anything to help them. When it comes to growing pains, we’ve talked to countless parents that are under the misconception that growing pains are a normal part of development and that nothing can be done until the child grows out of them.

The truth is that while growing pains has been found to affect from 3% to 37% of children at some point during development (Uziel & Hashkes, 2007), growing pains can be managed and measures can be taken to reduce symptoms, alleviate pain and stop it from coming back.

So what are the two most common types of growing pains that we see here at Sole Motion Podiatry? They’re called Sever’s Disease and Osgood Schlatter Disease. While both of these are labelled as ‘disease’, they are really more just a painful growth-related condition that will cease on full maturity (at the latest).


Sever’s Disease

Sever’s disease is medically known as calcaneal apophysitis and describes the pain felt at the back of the heel during periods of growth. This pain, and other symptoms such as inflammation, are caused by the abnormal tension (pull) by the achilles tendon on the heel bone and its growth plate in kids, particularly between the ages of 8 and 14. All growing bones have growth plates which will eventually turn into solid bone when we reach full maturity. The symptoms may include aching or sharp pain at the back of the heel, pain during or after physical activity, tightness through the back of the legs and heels and swelling.

Causes of increased tension by the achilles on the back of the heel may include:

  • Tight calf muscles
  • Faster rate of bone growth than muscle growth
  • Increasing the intensity of physical activities
  • Running sports
  • Soccer boots and low-heeled shoes
  • Hard surfaces
  • Increased impact forces to the heel bone


Osgood Schlatter Disease

Osgood Schlatter Disease (OSD) is medically known as tibial tuberosity apophysitis and describes the inflammation of the the growth plate just below the knee in children. Like in Sever’s, it is the excess tension and pull in the area of the growth plate that produces painful symptoms. In OSD, the growth plate is located at the tibial tuberosity, which is the bony bump at the top of your shin bone (tibia) and just below the knee. The pulling force is created from the quadriceps muscles which turn into the patellar tendon as it crosses the knee to attach to the tibia.

Symptoms can include pain, inflammation and tenderness below the knee, pain on and following physical activities such as running, pain on movements that bend the knee such as doing stairs and kneeling. The causes of increased tension may include:

  • Tight muscles around the knee and shin bone
  • Repetitive high-impact activities, such as running and jumping
  • Faster rate of growth of the femur relative to the quadricep muscles
  • Injury to the knee and/or tibia


How does our team help growing pains?

Because the painful symptoms are created by the tension and pulling of the tendons onto the areas surrounding the growth plates, we are able to reduce and alleviate symptoms by reducing the strain and tension. This may include:

  • Stretching tight muscles to loosen them and reduce the strain they create
  • Strengthening weak muscles to help support and stabilise the foot, and not pull on other structures
  • Footwear assessment – to ensure the footwear is helping and not hindering recovery. Even good, supportive shoes may have a low set heel which can place more tension on the back of the heel from the achilles tendon
  • Activity modification to prevent the onset of painful symptoms throughout your treatment
  • Orthotics to correct any biomechanical or alignment issues that may be causing extra tension at the heel or knee
  • Gait training to assess and help correct any running and walking technique abnormalities that may be contributing to the onset of symptoms
  • Education around the importance of steps like warming up before activity, as well as tips on helping reduce the tendon strain and onset of painful symptoms

We’ve had great success with managing the symptoms of growing pains and watching kids return to the sports and activities they love pain-free. While the heel and knees are the most common sites for growing pains in the lower limbs in kids, they can occur at any site that irritates a growth plate. If your child is complaining of pain in their feet and legs or you’re concerned, give our team a call on 1300-FX-FEET.

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