Ester Marsh: Are they growing pains or an injury?

  • Posted: Monday, June 16, 2014 12:39 a.m.

The past few weeks, I have mentioned kids staying active through the summer with summer camps and activities. Something to watch for is overuse injury, which can be mostly prevented by a well-balanced workout schedule for your child. But today I want to talk about growing pains. Too many times, we tell our children they are experiencing growing pains, when actually they are dealing with an injury (whether it is overuse or due to an incident).

It is very important to differentiate between the two. To confirm, you really should have your child's doctor diagnose the problem.

For your information, I am going to explain the difference between growing pains and injuries:

Growing pains usually affect the limbs, especially in the legs, with children who are still undergoing growth and development.

Symptoms that could be part of growing pains include:

• Muscle aches and pains in both legs, mostly in the calf, behind the knee and in front of the thigh.

• Using the legs does not make the pain better or worse.

• Pain comes and goes. It could happen a few times per week at night, every night for a week or just occasionally.

• Most of the time the pain is worse during the night, particularly when the child is going to sleep.

• The pain can be severe enough that it can wake up the child.

• The pain is usually gone by morning.

• Occasionally, the muscles in the arms may be affected.

• The child also may complain of headaches.

Treatment options:

• Massaging the areas can help relieve the pain.

• Heat treatment such as hot baths and hot water bottles.

• Stretching exercises

• Pain medications to alleviate the pain.

When it is not growing pains:

• When your child is limping

• Severe pain or pain that only affects one leg or arm

• Pain continues through the day

• Pain affects the way they run or walk

• There is swelling, redness and/or tenderness of the leg or arm

• Loss of appetite

• Child has a fever

Due to the fact that children are playing more competitive sports, sport- related injuries have risen tremendously. Since children still have growth plates (epiphyseal plate), the stress of the tendons pulling on the growth plates can create problems. One (unfortunately) very common injury is Apophysitis — inflammation of the apophysis.

Common areas can be the knee where the patellar tendon due to overuse can inflame that growth plate. Or elbow, Medial Apophysitis (also called Little Leaguer's elbow). Or, even in the feet and hips.

Due to growing, the muscles might get very tight so it is very important to stretch daily and hold each stretch for 15-30 seconds at a time, 1-2 sets per exercise. Some simple strength exercises using their body weight might be beneficial, and cross training is a must.

Tonight we have our WRHS cross country information meeting at 6 p.m. in the media center. Having knowledgeable coaches assist your growing and active child with their workouts, whatever sport they may participate in, can really prevent lots of overuse injuries and hopefully keep your child healthy and active.

Ester H Marsh, Health and Fitness Director JF Hurley family YMCA

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