I’m sure many of you reading this may be dealing with or have dealt with a child who has experienced pain during peak growing years. Maybe you even remember going through this yourself! It is fairly common for children to experience some pain from ages 8-16 while they are growing. Growth spurts leave children vulnerable because bones often grow at a faster rate than muscles and tendons, causing them to be tight and put stress on growth plates found at the end of growing bones.
Sometimes this is just pain that is of no real concern and does not limit a child’s function or activity, but in some situations this can be more of a problem. Often times children who are more active and participate in regular sport suffer the most.
When the quadriceps tendon places stress on the tibial tuberosity (top of the shin bone, under the knee cap) where it attaches causing inflammation of that growth plate. Sometimes this causes a visible bump at the tibial tuberosity. This often causes knee pain with running, jumping, stair climbing, and kneeling.
When the Achilles tendon places stress on its attachment on the calcaneus (the heel bone). Often children experience pain with jumping, running, walking barefoot, and getting out of bed first thing in the morning with this condition.
What can we do about this? Is there a cure?
There is not necessarily a “cure” for these conditions, but there are treatments that can be done to help relieve pain.
Ice the affected area for 10-15 minutes daily and always after activity
Stretch the muscles around the affected area daily, especially before activity
Limit painful activities– this does not always mean a complete rest from sport or activity, but continuing to perform activities that cause pain make it more difficult to reduce the inflammation and put the child at risk for further injury due to compensation.
When should we seek medical attention?
Limping during or after activity
Decreased ability to perform activities normally (running more slowly, avoiding putting weight on the affected side)
Pain at rest
This type of pain/injury can be very frustrating for a child who wants to be active but is having difficulty because of pain. Best thing to do is be proactive and make stretching a part of your child’s normal routine and have planned breaks from sporting activities.
The Sports Medicine team and Sport and Orthopedic physical therapists at Nationwide Children’s have extensive experience in dealing with the topic of growing pains, so when in doubt, give us a call!
Jenny Borda, PT, DPT is a physical therapist at Nationwide Children’s Hospital at the Dublin Sports Medicine building. She graduated with her Doctorate in Physical Therapy in 2008 from The Ohio State University and has been working at Nationwide Children's since then.
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