Growing Pains - What Are They?

Youth and Disability

Author: University of Sydney
Published: 2022/07/22 - Updated: 2023/01/04 - Peer-Reviewed: Yes
Contents: Summary - Definition - Introduction - Main - Related

Synopsis: Growing pains is a term used to diagnose musculoskeletal pain in children however what exactly are growing pains. Growing pains are considered one of the most common causes of recurring musculoskeletal pain in children and adolescents. Some studies suggest up to a third of children experience the condition at some point in their life. The definitions were variable, vague, and often contradictory. Some studies suggested growing pains happened in the arms or lower body. Some said it was about muscles, while other studies said joints.

Introduction

We often hear the phrase 'growing pains' used by the general public to describe muscle or joint pain in young people, and health professionals also use the term. However, researchers have found there is no consistent medical definition of the condition behind a diagnosis.

Main Digest

A broad review of medical literature by University of Sydney researchers found no agreement among researchers and clinicians on what growing pains are, what they mean, how they are defined, and how they should be diagnosed.

The researchers say growing pains may be a medical misnomer. Surprisingly, more than 93 percent of studies did not refer to growth when defining the condition. More than 80 percent of studies did not mention age in their definition.

The findings have prompted the researchers to recommend the term growing pains not be used by clinicians and other researchers as a stand-alone diagnosis until a clear definition backed by evidence has been established. The study is published in Pediatrics.

Continued below image.
Image of a sleeping child.
Image of a sleeping child.
Continued...

Growing pains are considered one of the most common causes of recurring musculoskeletal pain in children and adolescents. Some studies suggest up to a third of children experience the condition at some point in their life. The term first emerged in 1823 in a book called 'Maladies de la Croissance' ('diseases of growth').

"Thousands of kids are diagnosed with growing pains by their healthcare professional, but we were curious - what does that diagnosis mean?" said lead author Dr. Mary O'Keeffe from the Institute for Musculoskeletal Health at the University of Sydney.

The researchers extracted information from 147 studies that mentioned growing pains. The goal was to see how researchers defined the term and if any detailed criteria led to a diagnosis. The medical literature included research of many types, including systematic reviews, editorials, observational studies, case-control studies, and theses.

"What we found was a little concerning that there is no consistency in the literature on what 'growing pains' means," said Professor Steven Kamper from the School of Health Sciences at the University of Sydney and Nepean Blue Mountains Local Health District.

"The definitions were variable, vague, and often contradictory. Some studies suggested growing pains happened in the arms or lower body. Some said it was about muscles while other studies said joints."

Only seven studies, less than 10 percent of the studies examined, mentioned growth related to the pain. More than 80 percent of the studies did not mention a young person's age when 'growing pains' occurred. There was also no widespread agreement or a lack of detail on where the pain was located or when the pain happened.

"What this study uncovered was while 'growing pains' is a very popular label used to diagnose musculoskeletal pain, it means very different things to different people," said senior author Professor Steve Kamper.

"This level of uncertainty means clinicians don't have a clear guide or criteria to know when the label 'growing pains might be appropriate for a patient."

The study also raised new questions on whether growing pains are connected to growth in bone or muscle.

"There is a lack of evidence or inconsistent information on growing pains as a condition - and how it is associated with growth or even the cause of the pain," said Dr. O'Keeffe. "There is a real opportunity to understand this condition - given how widespread the term is, or whether there is even a need to use this term."

Attribution/Source(s):

This peer reviewed publication was selected for publishing by the editors of Disabled World due to its significant relevance to the disability community. Originally authored by University of Sydney, and published on 2022/07/22 (Edit Update: 2023/01/04), the content may have been edited for style, clarity, or brevity. For further details or clarifications, University of Sydney can be contacted at sydney.edu.au. NOTE: Disabled World does not provide any warranties or endorsements related to this article.

Related Publications

Share This Information To:
𝕏.com Facebook Reddit

Page Information, Citing and Disclaimer

Disabled World is an independent disability community founded in 2004 to provide news and information to people with disabilities, seniors, their family and carers. We'd love for you to follow and connect with us on social media!

Cite This Page (APA): University of Sydney. (2022, July 22 - Last revised: 2023, January 4). Growing Pains - What Are They?. Disabled World. Retrieved July 14, 2024 from www.disabled-world.com/disability/children/growing-pains.php

Permalink: <a href="https://www.disabled-world.com/disability/children/growing-pains.php">Growing Pains - What Are They?</a>: Growing pains is a term used to diagnose musculoskeletal pain in children however what exactly are growing pains.

Disabled World provides general information only. Materials presented are never meant to substitute for qualified medical care. Any 3rd party offering or advertising does not constitute an endorsement.