What To Do When Your Child Complains Of Leg Pain

Does your child complain of leg pain at night? You could end up having sleepless nights because of this, but the pain is mostly harmless. It affects children between age three to 12.

By Monali Bordoloi  • 7 min read

What To Do When Your Child Complains Of Leg Pain
Growing pain affects children between age four to 12

Eight-year-old Aryaman woke up in the middle of the night and complained about intense leg pain.  His parents were clueless what to do. They asked him if he got hurt while playing. But he said he didn’t. They spent rest of the night massaging his legs. By morning, there was no pain and he was fine. The pain came back few days later, again at night. They visited the doctor next day, who said it is most likely to be growing pain.

Like Aryaman, many children in the age group of three to twelve years complain about a pain in their lower legs. The pains mostly come at nights. Dr Manohar Babu KV, Senior Consultant Pediatric Orthopaedics, Apollo Hospitals, Bangalore, says, “The name Growing pain is a misnomer. Contrary to the term growing pain, there is no correlation between growth spurts and increased frequency of growth pains.”

What is growing pain?

 “Growing pains are nothing but simple aches or muscle pains, usually in the lower legs and feet, that develop in the evening or night. Children aged between three and 12 are mostly affected by it. Although these night-time pains can be distressing for both the child and the parents, growing pains are fairly common and it does not cause long-term harm,” Dr Manohar Babu adds.


Symptoms of growing pains can be different for different kids. Generally, these pains are felt in both legs. The pain is mostly in the front of the thighs, in calves or back of the legs. The pain can be behind the knees too. The severity of the pain felt could also be different for different kids. While some complain of mild pain, others suffer from severe pains.. However, most kids do not complain about pain every day.

Sometimes, the child can suffer from growing pains for months or even years. But, most kids outgrow this night-timely pain within a few years.

What parents can do:

  1. Do not discourage outdoor activities or sports in case your child complains about leg pain at night. Most parents think that the night time leg pain is the result of too much physical activities of the child.
  2. Light massage in the affected areas helps the child go back to sleep.
  3. If the pains are coming back frequently, ask your child to take a warm soothing bath before bed.
  4. On rare occasions, if the pain is unbearable, Paracetamol syrup can be given. 

How to get rid of growing pains:

Preventive medications are not advised for general aches and pains in children. The pain goes away with time.

Take part and encourage your children also to participate in sports and physical activities, be it running, hiking, cycling or swimming. Does your child go for swimming? Read the health benefits of swimming here.

Why growth pain comes at night?

Parents often have this question, why the leg pains come mostly at nights or evenings. The answer to this is that the reason behind the night-time occurrence of pain is not known. One possible reason could be as the body is at rest during nights, so it can feel pains more.

Does the pain affect growth and development of a child?

Many parents fear that the regular night-timely leg pain in their child will affect his growth and development. Dr Babu clarifies, “If the child is otherwise healthy, there is absolutely nothing to worry about nightly leg pains in your child. Also, it does not in any way affect the growth and development of the child. “

When to seek help:

However, pain in legs could point out to something serious. Take the matter seriously when the growing pain points out to something sinister. If you notice the following red flags, it is time you consult a doctor.

  1. The child has pain in just one leg.
  2. Pain also affecting the arms or back or all joints.
  3. Pain that occurs every night or continues during the day.
  4. Swelling in the legs or redness in the legs.
  5. Pain accompanies fever.
  6. The child limps and is reluctant to walk.
  7. There is loss of weight or appetite

Growing pain is common in children, it can be treated with simple measures and lots of love and care for the child. 

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With inputs from Dr Manohar Babu KV, Senior Consultant Pediatric Orthopaedics, Apollo Hospitals, Bangalore.