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Growing Pains are real, but no one seems to know why exactly kids get them. Learn what we do know here on SciShow Quick Question!

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Hosted by: Michael Aranda

Sources:
http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/growing-pains/basics/definition/con-20029782
http://www.slate.com/articles/double_x/the_kids/2013/08/growing_pains_in_kids_are_they_real_what_causes_them_and_is_there_any_treatment.html
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15289780
https://my.clevelandclinic.org/childrens-hospital/health-info/ages-stages/preschool/hic-Growing-Pains
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19039913
https://www.healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/conditions/orthopedic/pages/Growing-Pains-Are-Normal-Most-Of-The-Time.aspx
http://news.psu.edu/story/141240/2007/11/05/research/probing-question-are-childrens-growing-pains-real
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20171654
http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/osgood-schlatter-disease/basics/definition/con-20021911
https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/001258.htm
[SciShow intro plays]

[Text: QQs: What Causes Growing Pains?]

Michael: We all know growing up isn’t always easy. But is it actually painful? I don’t mean socially or emotionally, because anyone who’s lived through hundreds of lunch hours in the shark tank that is a school cafeteria can tell you all about that particular kind of torture... I’m talking about those classic, mysterious throbbing leg aches that up to 30% of kids tend to experience in the afternoon or late at night. Growing pains.

And your kid might have good reason to cry -- the pain is real. But it isn’t caused by growing. For one, kids experience their more intense phases of growth when they’re babies and teenagers, while growing pains typically strike between those phases -- between the ages of three and twelve, typically peaking when they’re six or seven. And, besides, there is no evidence that that actual process of growing hurts. So the term “growing pains” is a complete misnomer, but it’s probably stuck around because the more accurate terminology isn’t exactly catchy. I mean, you’d never have seen Kirk Cameron star in a sitcom called “non-inflammatory pain syndrome of early childhood.”

But even if the name’s wrong, the pain itself is real. So what’s causing it? Well, scientists aren’t totally sure, but it’s probably related to what a lot of kids do all day; they run around, climb trees, chase balls, jump off couches, all kinds of things that can be hard on a kid’s developing musculoskeletal system. Basically, they’re overusing their leg muscles. And it hurts.

Some studies also suggest kids that who experience a lot of growing pains may have a higher sensitivity to pain in general. But leg pain can be caused by much more serious illnesses, too -- like childhood arthritis, leukemia, inflammatory muscle disease, or septic infection. So if anything seems, like, extra wrong, you might want to talk to a doctor. But the typical growing pains are nothing to worry about.

If your kid gets them, there are a few things you can do to help ease their pain -- like massaging their legs, administering heat, mild pain relievers, and, you know, cuddles, if your kid is still into that. And just remember, everyone eventually does outgrow their growing pains.

Thanks for asking, and thanks especially to all of our patrons on Patreon who keep these answers coming. If you’d like to submit questions to be answered, or get these Quick Questions a few days before everyone else, go to patreon.com/scishow. And don’t forget to go to youtube.com/scishow and subscribe!