By Brian Cross
Throbbing legs, aching thighs and painful, sleepless nights – if you’re the parent of a child who suffers from growing pains, you’re probably all too familiar with these symptoms.
But according to University of Saskatchewan graduate student Faizah Visram, parents and physicians know surprisingly little about growing pains, and academic research on the topic is limited.
“We don’t really know what causes it,” said Visram. “In fact, there isn’t even a common definition that’s used by physicians to describe growing pains.”
A member of the Child Health Research Group at the U of S, Visram is attempting to learn more about growing pains, a condition that affects many children. “The prevalence varies from 2.6-40 per cent in children aged four to 19,” she said. “We don’t know the prevalence in two-to-three-year-olds, but the condition certainly occurs in children of this age.”
And she is hoping to develop a definition of growing pains that is widely accepted by health care professionals. By arriving at such a definition and developing a conceptual model of the condition, Visram will be able to assist doctors in diagnosing growing pains. The research will also help to identify potential treatments and will enable researchers to evaluate treatments in controlled studies.
“There’s been limited research on how to treat and manage growing pains,” Visram said. ”I’m hoping that by getting a broader idea of what growing pains are and what children’s experiences are, we will have some new ideas of where to go with treatment studies.”
Because the definition of growing pains varies from doctor to doctor, diagnosis and treatment can be difficult. In a recent survey, Visram contacted physicians across Canada and asked them to provide their own definitions of growing pains.
Definitions were varied but most physicians described growing pains as intermittent leg pains that occur in the evening or at night. The pain is bilateral, meaning it occurs in both legs, although not necessarily in both legs at the same time.
Some physicians included arm pains in the definition and some indicated that the pains can also occur during the day.
One treatment study examined by Visram discussed the benefits of stretching as a way to minimize pain. Other common treatments include the use of massages, heating pads and over-the-counter drugs such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen.
As a next step in her studies, Visram is planning to survey children who suffer from growing pains. She hopes to interview children and their parents to learn more about the types of pain that children experience.
Children between the ages of six and 12 will be interviewed in groups while their parents will be asked to fill out a questionnaire.
“What I want to do is find out what kids think about the pain, how they cope with it, how they manage it, and what their experiences are.”
Children and parents who wish to take part in the study can contact Visram at 966-1349. She can also be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Parents who participate in the study will receive a $5 honorarium. Children will receive free Ruckers tokens.
Brian Cross is a
Saskatoon freelance writer.
Office of Communications, University of Saskatchewan