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What are Growing Pains?

pain, children, growing pains
'Growing pains' are not from growing. (Image credit: <a href="http://www.shutterstock.com/gallery-578260p1.html">Thaiview</a> | <a href="http://www.shutterstock.com/">Shutterstock</a>)

"Don't worry about it," mothers often tell children complaining of leg aches. "It's just growing pains."

Or is it? Growing pains are interesting, for in one way they are real but in another way, they don’t really exist. Growing pains are minor, unspecified aches and pains (often in the arms or legs) reported by young children.

The pains are real, but they are not caused by the child's growing body. The process of growing is so slow that if there was any physical pain associated with aging, it would be stretched out over the course of months. In short, growing isn’t painful (unless you’re Bruce Banner turning into the Incredible Hulk!). Of course, we are all growing all the time, so strictly speaking growing pains could strike at any age (arthritis could be considered growing pains for the elderly).

Growing pains are typically not dangerous or harmful, but instead a convenient (if somewhat dismissive) "catch-all" folk diagnosis for the minor sprains, muscle exhaustion, and sore muscles that occasionally plauge active kids.

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Benjamin Radford
Benjamin Radford is the Bad Science columnist for Live Science. He covers pseudoscience, psychology, urban legends and the science behind "unexplained" or mysterious phenomenon. Ben has a master's degree in education and a bachelor's degree in psychology. He is deputy editor of Skeptical Inquirer science magazine and has written, edited or contributed to more than 20 books, including "Scientific Paranormal Investigation: How to Solve Unexplained Mysteries," "Tracking the Chupacabra: The Vampire Beast in Fact, Fiction, and Folklore" and “Investigating Ghosts: The Scientific Search for Spirits,” out in fall 2017. His website is www.BenjaminRadford.com.