Some kids never get growing pains. Others seem to suffer from them on an almost weekly basis. There’s no scientific evidence that bone growth causes discomfort—but my 7-year-old, who went from pint-sized, dimple-kneed and almost plump to a long-and-lean string bean practically overnight, would beg to differ. She begged to differ at 2 a.m. several weeks ago, in fact, when she woke up in tears because her shins hurt.
Here are some do’s and don’ts for dealing with your child’s growing pains:
Do take your child’s complaints seriously. In the middle of the night, it might be tempting to dismiss your child’s complaints as a ploy for attention or I-can’t-sleep-itis, but that would be a mistake. Suddenly awaking due to pain is scary enough, and to feel like you’re being annoying or, worse, being perceived as a liar, just adds insult to injury (literally!). Ask what’s wrong, where it hurts, and when it started hurting.
Don’t underestimate the effectiveness of a little TLC. Growing pains might indeed be very real and very painful, but I have found that walking my daughter back to her room and speaking to her in a comforting voice works most of the time. Relaxing your child so she’s able to fall back asleep might be all the help she really needs!
Do try massage therapy and heat. If comfort and hugs don’t do the trick, try massaging the area that hurts with a little lotion in a soothing scent. When she was younger, I actually tricked my kid into believing a perfectly ordinary bottle of Earth’s Best Organic Lavender Lotion was “growing pains cream”—she would wake up and put it on herself some nights, then fall right back asleep! If massage and lotion don’t help, a heating pad or heated patches might.
Don’t be afraid to try homeopathy. For centuries, pain sufferers have relied on homeopathic creams like arnica to ease aches. Biofreeze is a great product for athletes, arthritis sufferers—and in small quantities, growing kids with aching limbs. Both of these products use non-pharmaceutical ingredients; if you have any concerns, definitely contact the pediatrician before applying.
Do talk to the pediatrician if your child seems to experience pain frequently. It’s very likely he or she will say, “Eh, typical growing pains!” But the doctor will still need to ask a few important questions to rule out more serious possible conditions.
Do encourage your child to stretch. Stretching may help alleviate pain when your child is experiencing it, and it might help prevent episodes later on—or maybe not. Either way, a little stretching won’t “hurt” anyone, and it’s a good way to work on flexibility to boot!
Jorie Mark is Vitacost.com’s Director of Marketing Communications and mom to three kids, ages 2 to 10.