Growing pains are when kids have pain in their legs and it is not clear exactly what causes them. The pains are mild and go away after a couple of hours but can occur each day for a few weeks. The pain could be due to the increased bone growth, during a growth spurt, or due to poor posture or muscular pains. These pains usually have resolved by 12 years of age but can occur later too.
The commonest causes for leg pains are due to trauma, such as fractures, which can be very subtle on X-ray, injury to soft tissues, such as the muscles, tendons or ligaments, or infections, such as septic arthritis or osteomyelitis. A doctor would examine you, take a careful history and check for signs of infection. It is very important to see a doctor; as if infections are not treated they can become quite serious.
Teenagers can occasionally have a slipped upper femoral epiphyses (SUFE), where the head of the femur (thigh bone) can ‘slip’ off the neck slightly, causing pain and if not treated carefully, this can lead to avascular necrosis, where some of the bone dies due to lack of a proper blood supply. An X-ray can diagnose this and your doctor to consider this when you are being examined.
Immune diseases, such as juvenile inflammatory arthritis can also cause pain in the limbs, but this would usually initially affect younger children. It can affect several joints and also cause fever. Blood tests and an X-ray help to diagnose this and treatment usually involves non-steroidal painkillers, such as ibuprofen, or steroids can be used in more severe cases.
Blood disorders, such as haemophilia or sickle cell anaemia also cause limb pain, but these conditions are hereditary and doctors should have already checked for these in children.
Rarely, bone tumours can also cause pain in the legs in teens, and these will need to be formally diagnosed by specialists and treatments depends on whether the tumour is benign or malignant.
The moral being – If you have ongoing pains in your legs (or anywhere else), go and see your doctor for a full check up!!!.