Musculoskeletal Growth Pain in the Child and Adolescent

Musculoskeletal pain in children can occur during or after a growth spurt. This pain can be aggravated by sporting activities which involve running, jumping or poor posture. The underlying cause of the pain is usually muscular and more pronounced in the lower limbs. As the bones develop and grow faster than muscle, the muscles are placed under increased tension and stretch which can irritate their attachment onto the bone. Childhood musculoskeletal pain usually occurs from the age of eleven until the growth phase has finished.

Symptoms of Growing Pain

  • Commonly occur in conjunction with a rapid period of growth or sudden increases in activity. They can vary in their presentation.
  • Local pain around the muscle attachment points commonly in the knee, shin and heel. Although some children may experience shoulder, neck or hip and low back pain.
  • Pain during activity but the pain may decrease as your child warms up.
  • An ache or burning pain which may be more pronounced at night.
  • Pain which causes a limp during activity and for a period following the activity.

Common Conditions seen by our Physiotherapists

Osgood-Schlatters – pain is located just below the knee and is often aggravated with running and jumping.

Severs disease – pain in the heel where the Achilles attaches to the bone.

Shin Splints – pain either side of the shin. This is not isolated to children/adolescents and can often be seen once growing has ceased.

Patellofemoral issues – pain in the front of the knee.

Plantar fasciitis – pain in the sole of the foot/heel

Groin pain

Schuermann’s disease – increased curvature in middle back (rounding of the middle back)

Scoliosis – abnormal curve of the spine

Swimmers shoulder

Biomechanical Factors

Often there are a number of biomechanical anomalies that may be present such as:

  • Flat feet (pronated feet)
  • Knocked knees
  • Patella position
  • Hypermobility in joints
  • Variation of normal spinal curves

Physiotherapy for Musculoskeletal Growth Pains

Physiotherapy has been proven to be effective in decreasing pain quickly and speeding up the recovery process. Attending to physiotherapy early when symptoms are present will prevent your child developing altered technique, postural changes and muscle imbalances which can occur due to the pain.

Our physiotherapists will thoroughly assess your child’s symptoms with a biomechanical assessment looking at posture, sport specific techniques, joint range of motion, flexibility, strength and other physical tests of surrounding structures.

A variety of treatment techniques can be used to help reduce pain and inflammation and improve muscle flexibility and strength. A home exercise program will be given to correct the biomechanical factors causing the pain as well as an analysis of sporting technique and modification/correction if needed. In severe cases, your physiotherapist may encourage periods of rest from sport or the aggravating activity but alternate activities will be given.

If you think your child may be experiencing growing pains or any of the above, book with one of our physiotherapists.

Rebecca Gigney, Senior Physiotherapist 

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