Growing Pains- Does my child need to see the Physio?

As a Sports Physiotherapist in an active town like Port Macquarie, it seems to be at certain times of the year kids complain about their joints. As we change over from summer to winter sport, some children will get sore legs, knees or ankles. As children go through growth spurts, cells under their skins are going through some mind- blowing changes.

Often growing pains such as aching legs can be eased with massaging the calves and thighs and using a hot water bottle or having a warm shower. These sorts of pains should resolve in a few days.

If your child plays sports, and they are particularly good athletes they will often get picked for representative teams. This means their ‘load’ on their muscles and joints is greater, as they have more training and games. Maybe they love what they do and play these sports in the playground too. Our bodies love movement, but our bodies also need rest. If kids end up doing too much their tissues can get ‘overloaded’.

There are also a few critical times in their growth. For girls aged 10-12 years, and boys aged 12-14 years, not only does puberty hit their emotions it also causes changes especially where tendons insert into the bone. The structure of their tissues undergo rapid change. For example where the Achilles’ tendon inserts into the heel bone, and where the patella tendon inserts onto the top of the shin are common sites of pain in children when they undergo these changes. These two conditions are called Severs Disease and Osgood-Schlatters, respectively. The cells in the tendon that were elastic and stretchy become more fibrocartilangenous, i.e. they get stiffer and stronger at their attachment to the bone. These microscopic level changes produce substances locally, and the mechanical loads will send signals to the brain which are then interpreted as pain.

It is worthwhile having your child assessed by a registered health professional who is able to diagnose their condition and has experience in this area. A specific stretching program will generally improve their symptoms, and massage to targeted areas can also have a significant effect to reduce pain, and help them get through the growth phases associated with adolescence. It is also another area in life where kids can learn to take responsibility for their health and well-being with support from their family.