Growing pains is a term that we often hear not only among social circles but also from medical practitioners and while the term is fairly a common one to describe muscle or joint pain in young people, one startling fact has come to the fore that there is no clear medical definition of what growing pains are.
Growing pains are considered to be one of the most common causes of recurring musculoskeletal pain in children and adolescents. Some studies suggest up to a third of children experience the condition at some point in their life. The term first emerged in 1823 in a book called ‘Maladies de la Croissance’ (‘diseases of growth’).
A broad review of medical literature by University of Sydney researchers found there is no agreement among researchers and clinicians on what growing pains really are, what they mean, how they are defined, and how they should be diagnosed. According to researchers involved with the study growing pains may be a medical misnomer.
More than 93 percent of studies did not refer to growth when defining the condition and more than 80 percent of studies made no mention of age in their definition. The findings of the latest study published in Pediatrics have prompted the researchers to recommend the term growing pains not be used by clinicians and other researchers as a stand-alone diagnosis, until a clear definition backed by evidence has been established.
The researchers extracted information from 147 studies that mentioned growing pains in a bid to see how the term is defined by researchers and if there were any detailed criteria that led to a diagnosis. The medical literature included research of many types including systematic reviews, editorials, observational studies, case-control studies, and theses.
Only seven studies, less than 10 percent of the studies examined, mentioned growth related to the pain. More than 80 percent of the studies did not mention a young person’s age at the time ‘growing pains’ occurred. There was also no widespread agreement or a lack of detail on where the pain was located or when the pain happened.
Fifty percent of studies referenced ‘growing pains’ as being located in the lower limb, while 28 percent reported specifically in the knees. Forty-eight percent of studies reported the ‘growing pains’ happens during the evening or night and 42 percent reported it was recurring.