Some children, usually around the pre-school or pre-teen years (ages 3 to 4 or 8 to 12), experience pain and aching in their legs around bedtime. Commonly called growing pains, this phenomenon is actually more likely due to overworked muscles and tendons from physical activity throughout the day. Growing pains are fairly common and easily treated at home.
Getting plenty of physical activity is very good for them, but kids’ bodies are still developing, so when they spend a lot of time running, jumping, climbing, and so on, it can take a toll on their young muscles. The reason that growing pains present at nighttime, and have usually disappeared by morning, is that the soreness and strain are appearing after a full day of play; after a good night’s rest, they feel much better. But how can you help ease their pain through the night?
There’s no real medical treatment for growing pains, but there are tricks you can use at home to soothe them: utilizing a heat source such as a warm bath at bedtime or a heating pad applied to the legs can help ease muscle pain. A mild pain reliever such as ibuprofen may also help, and some kids may respond well to a light leg rub — just gently massage legs for a few minutes. In some cases, especially mild ones, they may even take comfort from just being held and comforted. You can also encourage them to do some light stretching in the afternoon or before bed; you can ask your doctor which ones might be most effective, but it’s hard to go wrong with any standard, gentle leg stretches. They’re a good option because they can help to both ease and prevent the aches of growing pains.
It’s been suggested that growing pains are, at least in part, related to a low pain threshold in kids, so some of it will depend on how well your child handles pain. Some experience more pain than others, and it may come and go, sometimes lasting days, sometimes months. It’s rare for it to occur every single day for months, however, so consult a doctor if it does.