Similar to adults, children and teens also feel pain in their legs. Leg pain occurs mostly during afternoons and evenings. It does not cause any harm, but there exists a continuous sense of discomfort and the leg pain may wake children up during night. The pain is localized in the lower part of legs, which requires proper care and management. Though the condition is fairly common and is usually short term, but it requires the parents to comfort the child not only physically but also psychologically.
Leg Pain in Children
Leg pain in children is a condition commonly referred by doctors as recurrent nocturnal limb pain. It causes cramps and distress in the legs of kids, keeping them awake at night but the pain subsides by morning. The pain can be in one or both the legs. The lower thighs, calves and the back side of the legs are mostly affected. This pain is more common in toddlers aged three to five years and kids of eight to twelve years of age. It must be kept in mind that these pains are not a disease and can occur in case the child hurts his or her legs. The intensity of occurrence of these pains is different for every kid, some kids may have severe pains and some may not have it at all.
The leg pain in children is also called growing pains, which means that some kids face the pain as a part of growing. Although, there is no proven research to support this belief but these pains usually stop as the kids grow.
Characteristics of Leg Pain in Children
The leg pain in children is the prominent feature of the growing pains itself; but, apart from this there are other symptoms of these pains. Some such symptoms are:
- Bruised legs
- Bleeding in legs
- Instability in knee or foot joints
- Weakness in leg muscles
- Reddish appearance
- Pus discharge at the site of injury
- Muscle spasms.
Causes of Leg Pain in Children
There are no definitive proofs for why this condition occurs in children but some possible factors that contribute to leg pain in children are:
- Incomplete Nutrition: Children require more nutrition than adults especially, calcium, iron and vitamin D which are extremely important for healthy growth. However, some children do not get sufficient intake of nutrients in their diet, which may result in growing pains or leg pain.
- Fatigued Leg Muscles: Children perform a lot of physical activities which may render their leg muscles over worked and fatigued. This may further result in leg pain while taking rest at night.
- Incorrect Posture: Some children follow inappropriate postures while walking and running. This may eventually lead to pain in legs and in severe cases, may cause deformed legs.
- Leg Pain in Children due to Restless Leg Syndrome: Some children may face this medical condition in which the legs feel restless, which may result in continuous movement of legs. This further makes the legs quite painful.
When to Worry for Leg Pain in Children?
In most cases, these pains do not require medical intervention and get cured easily. However, sometimes the leg pain in children may become severe and requires immediate medical attention. To identify such scenarios, parents should keep a check of below symptoms, so as to get to the emergency room when any of such symptoms is observed. Symptoms to check for are:
- The pain persists all day long and does not subside in the morning.
- Pain in the joints
- Presence of fever and chills
- Difficulty while walking
- Child is fatigued and less active
- Pain in the injury stays on even after a considerable time period.
Diagnosis of Leg Pain in Children
The diagnosis of growing pains follows the below diagnostic measures:
- Physical Examination to Diagnose Leg Pain in Children: This involves analysis of the existing symptoms. The doctor also checks for joint related pain, inflammation, tenderness, bruising and the site of pain.
- Analysis of Patient History to Detect the Cause of Leg Pain in Children: The analysis of patient's history is very important to check for prior injuries, systemic infections or possibility of children's arthritis.
- X-Ray Analysis for Leg Pain in Children: It is done mainly to ensure that the bones and joints are fine and there exists no deformity.
Management of Leg Pain in Children
The primary concern for the parents is to ease their child suffering from the leg pain or the growing pains. Most cases can be cured at home with mild pain medication, therapies and exercises. These measures include:
- Pain Medication: Mild pain medications like acetaminophen can be taken to provide temporary relief from the leg pain in children.
- Aromatherapy to Manage Leg Pain in Children: Essential oils from rosewood, lavender and chamomile, have a soothing and pain relieving effect. Thus, parents can give their children warm baths using these oils, in order to ease off the leg pain.
- Homeopathy Treatment: There are homeopathy medicines like Calcarea phosphoricum and Mag phosphoricum available that can manage the cramps in the legs. These also provide the child with inorganic salts that tend make-up the nutritional deficiencies within the child.
- Heat Application: Heat therapy through heating pads and warm baths help in easing the pain and relaxing the legs.
- Yoga and Exercises: There are several leg exercises and stretches in yoga that help in relieving the stress in the legs and manage leg pain in children.
Leg pain or growing pains are common in children and often relate to their growth phase. There are no studies to prove it, but observations suggest that when the child grows these pains subside gradually. These pains are often characterized by cramps at the back of the legs, especially in the lower thighs and calves. The pain tends to trouble essentially during late evenings and nights and wear off by morning; thereby keeping children awake all night. Leg pain in children can be managed effectively at home through mild medication and exercises, but in case there exists' an underlying condition of deformity or severe pain then taking medical help becomes inevitable.