Do leg cramps keep your child awake at night? Then he or she might be having growing pains.

A muscle cramp is when a muscle tightens up swiftly and it often occurs in the legs. Cramps are involuntary and your child cannot control them. Cramps happen suddenly, unexpectedly, without warning and causing pain or discomfort. Your child may not be able to use the affected muscles for a short time. It starts usually when kids are around 3 or 4 years old, up to age 12.

Causes


Overexertion

Children are always on the go, and they are involved in activities such as running and jumping. Sometimes new activities may also have the potential to trigger cramping. Lactic acid is produced as waste products following the activity by muscle fibres and minute tears occur when muscle fibres are stressed causing pain.

Dehydration

The human body is composed of 60% of water. Water helps in transporting minerals facilitating body functions and assisting in the removal of waste products. An adequate hydration is essential in controlling the body temperature. Excessive perspiration during activities can result in electrolyte imbalance and impair the body temperature, leading to muscle cramps.

Electrolyte Imbalances

The diet that is deficient in minerals such as calcium, magnesium, potassium and sodium results in electrolyte imbalance leading to leg cramps.

Foot and Leg Alignment

Children with flat feet or other structural deformities of the leg may experience cramps because of the unbalanced load on the leg muscles.

Symptoms of Growing Pains


Growing pains are not the same for everyone. Some kids have a lot of pain, others do not.

Pain comes on and off, sometimes for months or even years.

Pain is usually felt late afternoon and evening, right before dinner time, and at bedtime.

Growing pain is felt in both the legs, especially in the front of the thighs, back of legs (calves), or behind the knees.

Treatment


  • Massaging the legs.
  • Stretching the leg muscles.  Proper stretching before the activities along with proper cool-down can decrease the muscle cramps.
  • Use of special footwear can ease improved alignment and decrease stress on muscles and joints.
  • Using a warm cloth or heating pad on the sore leg helps to relieve the pain.
  • A balanced diet as well as adequate water intake helps to keep up the electrolytes balance. 

Prevent cramps

 

To rule out muscle cramps, stretch before bed, drink plenty of liquids, and refrain exercising too hard when it is hot outside.  

When to see a doctor

 

  • If the muscle cramps do not cease in a few minutes
  • If the muscle cramps are recurring with no clear cause such as intense exercise or injury