It isn't clear what causes "growing pains" -- it could be the long bones in the legs growing faster than muscles, temporary joint misalignment, or just kids playing too hard. But they're common, especially in preschoolers, and the pain is real, says Thomas Lehman, M.D., a pediatric rheumatologist. Growing pains:
- Only happen at night.
- Are more likely after an active day.
- Occur only in the lower legs -- ankles, shins, or knees.
If your child's pains don't fit into this pattern, talk to the doctor. Ditto if they get worse, or if he wakes up with stiff or painful legs, or has a limp. Several conditions start with nighttime pain but can progress.
True growing pains respond well to massage, TLC, and acetaminophen. They come in spurts, and are rare after 10.