Growing Pains and how to treat them

What exactly are growing pains’ and if your child has them, how can you manage them?

Growing pains, or its anatomical name Traction Apophysitis is how we describe a type of pain your child may experience following a period or rapid growth and/​or increased training loads. All long bones have a growth centre and during periods of rapid skeletal development, the cartilage in this growth centre is weaker and becomes more susceptible to injury. 

Traction Apophysitis most commonly affects the heel (Sever’s disease), below the knee cap (Osgood-Schlatter’s) and at the base of the knee cap (Sindig-Larsen-Johansson). These sites are most commonly affected in children who participate in sports involving running and jumping. However, Traction Apophysitis can also occur in the upper limb and this is more common those participating in throwing sports. 

Who is at risk?

Active children are more likely to develop Traction Apophysitis. 

What causes it?

  • Rapid bone growth can cause increased baseline tension at the tendon attachment, as the body may not have had a chance to adapt. i.e. bone grows quickly and the muscle has to stretch further from end to end. 
  • High training load involving repetitive muscle contraction can cause inflammation of the Apophysis. 
  • Poor biomechanics and technique error i.e. flat feet, knock knees etc. These changes can result in uneven force distribution and can also inflame the Apophysis. 

How do I know if my child has this? 

  • The onset is usually gradual, in most cases there will not be a specific incident. 
  • The pain is localised to the insertion of the tendon (i.e. they may point to the prominence at the top of the shin or the back of their heel) 
  • There may be swelling at the site of their pain. 
  • You should always seek early advice from your GP or physiotherapist to rule out any more sinister diagnoses. Obtaining an early diagnosis and appropriate management plan should reduce the impact on your child’s participation in sport. 
  • In most cases, the diagnosis can be made through subjective and objective examinations and further investigations are not required. However, on some occasions the Physiotherapist or GP may request imaging to confirm their diagnosis. 

My child has been diagnosed with a Traction Apophysitis injury; what do I do now? 

  • An individualised rehabilitation program should be devised with the help of your physiotherapist to address strength, movement control and flexibility. 
  • Stretching during acute episodes can cause increased traction and further delay healing. In some cases massage is more appropriate. As the injury heals and the inflammation settles down stretching may be appropriate, but you should always check first with your Physiotherapist. 
  • Usually activities can be modified with the help of your physiotherapist to allow continued participation in sport.
  • In most cases this is a pain limiting condition. A very general rule is that activity can be continued as long as your child is not limping during or after the activity. 

What is the prognosis?

In most cases the pain settles spontaneously and cause no further issues once the growth plate has fused. Growth plates fuse at different rates depending on a number of factors including; gender, body site and other genetic factors.

Until this fusion has occurred the pain can continue to go up and down with periods of rapid growth and increased training load. 

Our aim is to identify and address any issues pertaining to muscle length, muscle strength, technique and biomechanics in order to reduce the excess pressure at the site of the injury. With appropriate management the painful bouts will be much more manageable and should not affect sports participation to the same degree.

If your child is suffering from Traction Apophysitis book an appointment with one of our here or contacting your nearest clinic.