Growing pains are a rite of passage, just like the first pimple and itching your way through the chicken pox. The tender, aching feeling in your childâ€™s legs is easy to dismiss as growing pains, the stretching of the tendons to accommodate the growing bone. Sometimes, however, it could be a more serious problem, acting along the lines of growing pains to be easily dismissed.
Hereâ€™s how to tell the difference between simple growing pains and the more serious aches:
- Growing pains typically occur between ages 3 and 7, although they can occur off and on up to age 14. These pains do not occur on a regular pattern.
- The pains can be moderate to severe, occasionally waking the child from sleep. Growing pains are often seen in the evening or at night time, and are typically gone by morning. Some children may experience a tenderness without any real pain at all.
- According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, these pains are linked to days when the child has been significantly physically active, and not necessarily growth.
- These pains can typically be soothed by a light massage and some Tylenol. (click here)
Junior Rheumatoid Arthritis (JRA) is the most common culprit that masquerades as simply growing pains. If diagnosed early on and treated properly, children with JRA will recover without any serious disabilities. However, symptoms can carry on into adulthood.
- If the pain is persistent or appears with swelling, tenderness, or redness, or occurs in the morning, it may be signs of something more serious. Uncharacteristic tiredness, limping, or weakness may also be symptoms.
- In the worst cases, JRA will affect the childâ€™s leg length by inflammation, which increases the blood flow to one leg more than the other. This allows for the inflamed leg to grow longer, which can affect the childâ€™s walk, causing hip and back problems later in life.
- There is no known cause to JRA, although itâ€™s thought to be an autoimmune illness. Onset typically occurs before the age of 16 and can be seen as early as six months.
- JRA can be divided into different types: Systemic, Polyarticular, and Pauciarticular JRA. Systemic, or bodywide, JRA can include fevers and rashes, but is also the least common. Polyarticular involves many joints, and can turn into rheumatoid arthritis. Pauciarticular JRA involves four or less joints, but may also affect the eyes.
- Treatment for JRA can be treated in several ways, depending on how severe the JRA may be. Different medications can be prescribed, as well as a physician-approved exercise plan. In rare cases, surgery and joint replacement may be necessary.
Instead of putting your child at risk for JRA, learn to recognize the signs. Distinguishing between a simple growing pain and a severe joint ache is the key to preventing long-term illnesses in children. Let your children lead a happy, healthy, active life: growing pains and all!