Night time growing pains in children

April 16, 2018 / Nev Davies

This blog explains the pattern of symptoms, investigations and treatment for children with ‘growing pains’.


This Blog looks at a common complaint of growing pains in active children. These night time aches and pains are often called “growing pains” or “idiopathic” (of unknown cause) limb pains. They are relatively common in children and usually come between the ages of 2 and 8 years old.


They are typical after an active day, the child falls to sleep normally but wakes after a few hours with fleeting pain in the legs. This is usually around the shins but sometimes can be centered on the knees or even the ankles. Much less commonly there may be some pain in the arms as well. Usually the pain moves around at different times.


The actual cause remains unknown. It’s not clear where the pain originates from or what causes it. The most likely explanation is that the aches and discomfort arise from the muscles involved in normal jumping, climbing and running activities earlier in the day.


The characteristic history and the lack of clinical findings on examining the child in the clinic are typical that the diagnosis can usually be made confidently without subjecting the child to any uncomfortable tests. Joints affected by more serious pathology are usually swollen, red, tender, or warm, whereas the joints of children experiencing growing pains appear normal. If there is any doubt at all, more serious arthritic and other conditions can be excluded with simple blood tests, an X-ray of the painful area, and occasionally an MRI scan.


It is important for the child and the family, to understand that although the pains may be severe and distressing, they are not harmful and will go away in time. When the pain does occur, most children find local warmth and massage of the affected area soothing and that may be all that is needed. If the pattern is for the pain to persist more than a few minutes it is wise to give a dose of paracetamol (calpol) as soon as the pain occurs, this usually brings relief in about 15 minutes. Parents can sometimes predict which nights their child is likely to get pain, dependent on the activities that day. If that is the case it is safe to give some pain relief before bedtime. Use the recommended doses for the age of your child.


Growing pains virtually never evolve into any serious form of arthritis or other disease. They may remain troublesome for a while but they seem to drift away as mysteriously as they came.

Nev Davies and Richard Dodds are expert specialist Children’s Orthopaedic Consultants who have extensive knowledge of all orthopaedic conditions affecting children and young adults. They also have thriving adult knee practices treating all types of knee problems in patients of all ages, from ligament injuries through to arthritis.

They are 2 of the 6 consultants that make up the Reading Hip and Knee Unit.

If you would like to meet them in clinic for an appointment about any orthopaedic problem, injury or niggle please contact their secretaries below.

If you are a GP, physiotherapist or sports therapist and would like us to come and talk to you about anything related to childrens’ orthopaedics or adult knee surgery for CPD, then please get in touch.

Nev Davies: Debbie Rollason on 07305 097 137 or email :

Richard Dodds: Anne Gray on 08450941344 or e mail :

They consult at all the main private hospitals in Reading as well in clinics in Henley-on-Thames.

Contact The Reading Children's Orthopaedic Unit Today