Growing Pains : do they really lead to osteoarthritis?

Growing pains

Growing doesn’t hurt! Growing pains are usually a bio-mechanical problem from knocks or lax ligaments that can be easily sorted.

There have been many press reports in the last few weeks about how “growing pains” in teenagers are an early indicator that the person may develop osteoarthritis later in life.

I have NEVER heard such rubbish in all my life! No not the bit about they lead to OA but rather the term “growing pains”!

Let’s be clear about one thing. Growing does NOT hurt! Otherwise we would be in pain all the time as we are constantly renewing cells throughout our life.

What teenagers get is mechanical pain from a growth spurt. Teenagers have a whole host of hormonal changes going on and, as part of that, they will also often grow many inches in a few months. So their bones can grow can change that fast the ligaments around soften and elongate first. As the joints are no longer held so firmly in place they can twist and become slightly misaligned.

The most common place for this to happen in teenagers is in their pelvis. It will torsion so one side goes forwards and one backwards in relation to one another. As the hip (and so the leg) is on the front of the pelvis the leg will be pulled up (so get shorter) and be twisted out. To compensate the body will create twist through the knee. This puts stress on it and they get “growing pains”.

N.B These torsions can also occur from one sided sports (eg hockey or golf) and from minor injuries when you fall onto one buttock which bangs that side forward so can happen at any age. So they are not limited to teenagers with growth spurts and I have seen kids as young as 7 with “growing pains”!

Can “Growing Pains” Lead to Osteoarthritis?

Yes as the pelvis torsion probably would eventually lead to OA and wearing of the knee as there is abnormal stress on the joint. Before they get that far though the person would probably get low back and maybe headaches as well!

Can Growing Pain be Treated?

I have never, in 20 years of practice, had a case of growing pains I couldn’t sort (and yes I have my share of failures with people I don’t help! Usually these kids are sorted and pain free with only 3 or 4 treatments! In my opinion the diagnosis of “growing pains” is given as the medical profession have limited knowledge of biomechanics and they feel pressured to give an answer!

The moral of my rant is if you have children or grandchildren with ‘growing pains” then get them off to the chiropractor to sort their pelvis out. You will save them a lot of grief in the long term!

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