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All About Growing Pains: Dr. Starbuck Explains

Boy watering plants

Hi! I’m Dr. Jamison Starbuck, a naturopathic family physician. I’m here today with growing pain health tips.

After a day of playing and running around, have you noticed that your legs are crampy? Maybe in the evening your legs have hurt so bad that it seems you might not be able to sleep.

These are growing pains. They happen in three specific areas: the front of your thighs, behind your knees and in your calves. They start at the end of a day, after lots of activity. They can even wake you up when you are sleeping.

Adults call them growing pains because we used to think that they were aches and pains your body feels while it grows. But here’s a little secret: the name growing pains isn’t accurate. Growing doesn’t cause pain! Your hands get bigger, your arms, legs, hair and feet grow. None of that hurts!

Growing pains are muscle pain from tired muscles. They happen in your legs because we use our legs a lot when we play and exercise. Here’s another secret: adults get growing pains too. Even though they’re no longer growing!

Growing pains is a slightly dishonest name, but it’s a fun and people know what it means. Since growing pains hurt, let’s talk about ways to prevent them and what to do if you get them.

Growing pains happen when you’ve used a muscle for too long, when you haven’t had enough proper minerals and when you haven’t had enough water to drink. The pain happens because muscles make waste when they work. If you don’t drink enough water, your body can’t flush the waste out. Waste hanging around in muscles causes pain.

To prevent growing pains, you should do three things. First, drink plenty of water. To figure out the right amount, take your weight and divide it in half. That’s how many ounces of water you should drink in ounces. For example, if you weigh 60 pounds, you should drink 30 ounces of water. Don’t drink it all at once, spread out your water consumption throughout the day. Have some in the morning, afternoon and evening.

Second, eat lots of food rich in minerals, especially potassium and magnesium. You can get potassium from bananas, watermelon, spinach, sweet potatoes, beets, squash and even tomato sauce. To get magnesium, eat almonds, avocado, chard, black beans, yogurt and pumpkin seeds.

Finally, stretch every day. Maybe you know some good yoga stretches for the legs. Or you can do slow, gentle front bends, touching your toes with your hands. Another good stretch is to stand on a step with just the balls of your feet, then drop your heels down to gently pull you calf muscle out. Hold on to the handrail while you do this so you don’t fall!

If you still get growing pains after following these steps, try drinking water and stretching again. If that’s not enough to make you better, ask your parents if they can help by putting hot, moist towels and a heating pad on your legs. They can also massage the parts of your legs that hurt.

You might feel better taking a warm bath with Epsom salts. Epsom salts encourage muscles to loosen up. While you’re in the tub or in bed later, have a cup of Sleepytime tea. It’s made from chamomile, spearmint and linden, plant medicines that help the body and mind relax. It’s very tasty sweetened with honey.

I hope these tips help you avoid growing pains, and that you can run, play and have fun without any trouble at all.

I’m Dr. Jamison Starbuck and I’m wishing you well.