At some point, all growing children probably feel and complain about painful leg aches. These can come from muscle pulls and strains or some other potential source. It's not always easy to know what's a symptom of common growing pains and what's an indicator of something potentially more serious. It's up to the parent to assess a child's complaint to determine whether it's major or minor and offer the necessary guidance.
This is a common condition for many children between the ages of 5 and 10 and is found to coincide with times of rapid growth. These occur often late in the day or during the middle of the night, and will mostly be found after a day of strong physical activity. It's usually not intense enough to cause limping, and will be found in both legs, in the front of the thigh, the calf muscles and muscles in the back of the knees.
Limping, or painful aches like knee, ankle sprains or muscle strain, sometimes appear following a sports injury. Although muscle aches are more common, pains can also come from kicks to the legs in soccer, sliding in baseball, or other rough treatment of the body due to heavy sports activity.
Other causes can come from arthritis, which causes a swelling and redness of the joints; osteomyelitis, a bone infection; or Legg-Perthes, a sudden loss of blood flow to a particular bone. Tumours that develop in the leg bones can also be responsible for some leg pain. All of these require immediate treatment and could lead to surgery or the use of crutches for some time.
For initial indications of children's leg pain, a gentle massage of the affected areas is sometimes enough. If the pain is not constant every day or night, it is acceptable to give products containing ibuprofen to take away the pain. For simple injuries or growing pains, this is usually enough treatment. If the pain is constant, occurs repeatedly for several days, involves limping or fever, or is painful to the touch, a paediatrician should be consulted.
When children are troubled by the appearance of leg pain, it's a good idea to take them seriously and do the best job possible to alleviate the pain. Whether occasional or recurrent empathy, understanding and proper treatment are the best courses of action.