Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Growing Pains: Why Kids Complain

Kids complain about pain in the back of their legs -- calf and hamstring muscles. Commonly referred to as growing pains, these twinges occur because bones grow at a much faster pace than muscles. The problem that youth (ages 10-16) have as they grow is that as soon as their muscles start getting tight during and after a growth spurt, they compensate for the muscle tightness with actions such as toe-walking and pronating. 
  • Toe-walking - not "tiptoe" walking, but a stride where the heel does not touch the ground. The pivot point in the stride is at the forefoot instead of the ankle.
  • Pronating: The mid-foot collapses inward and  gives the appearance of ankle bend, but is really stress on the foot. 
These gait compensations create strains in the tendons connecting muscles to the foot (plantar fascia and achilles tendon). Then the muscles that attach up the leg become tighter, hence a kid will experience more growing pains. Muscles need to be used, stretched and worked to grow bigger and longer. (This is true at anytime of life.)

When a youth has growing pains, here's what you do:
  • Explain to them what's going on.
  • Keep them in physically active recreation or sports that don't have a lot of sitting-around time.
  • Teach them this simple stretch: Sit on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you and your feet against a wall or piece of furniture. With your back straight, use your hands to push your torso forwards until you feel a stretch. Hold this 30 seconds. Repeat 3 times.
  • Remember: Feet straight, bend your knees (just a little) as you walk and stand.

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