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Pediatrics/leg pain- toddler


Michelle wrote at 2007-05-05 05:07:04
I have a 4 year old son (a twin) he has the same

thing and when i ask he says his leg calf hurts.

My husband had bad leg cramps as a child and said they would go away if he forced himself to exercise it. I so far have been successful with Ibuprofen(Motrin)

I am thinking these are so called growing pains and

know my oldest daughters physician said my oldest

daughters knee pain was a tendon that has been

stretched do to growing to fast and would disappear

in time as it stretches. It has slowly gotten better

it was very painful when playing sports what a trooper!  

Sharon wrote at 2007-05-11 14:21:35
My 5 1/2 yr old daughter has been having this phantom calf and shin pains in the middle of the night (and sometimes in the day) as well. It comes up intermittently and she's in tears despite heat treatment, arnica, everyhting. I had it before too and it went away but was torture while it lasted. It's not imaginary but no doctors have been able to help!

Sue Hardy wrote at 2007-05-17 05:45:54
I am surprised the immediate response to the question was that it had to due with poor parenting. I have been a parent for 18 years and now have a small child again. This child sleeps through the night but has complained of his knees hurting, as soon as he was able to say both words in a sentence. He is clearly in pain. He has slept through the night since early infancy. The pain is strongest in the evening after a long day of good physical activity. I wouldn't speculate on the diagnosis but I believe that he truly is in pain. Sometimes it is so painful that he cries and the only comfort is a liquid pain reliever. I believe the parent of the original post. What concerns me is the expert response to the original post.

Nix wrote at 2008-01-14 21:43:23
Dear tired Mum

This may be rather late, but one of my children had similar problems.  Little boy, from the age of 18 months, was apparently in a lot of pain. After about 6 months we thought it might be cramp, and now he is 5 we know that it is - he can describe the pain, and if I massage the calf and foot, it helps.  Anyway, my mother suggested a bowl of milky cereal with sugar before bedtime, e.g. Weetabix.  She is a doctor specialising in diabetic adults so perhaps there was some science behind her suggestion - anyway, it has worked, with lifechanging effect.  As long as we give our little boy a bowl of cereal before bed, he sleeps through.

marc wrote at 2008-04-23 16:00:33
While toddlers do sometimes tell parents what they want to hear it is also true that toddlers more than occasionally can be quite articulate. I would not just assume the former. Leg pains in toddlers are quite common. A basic google search will lead you to lots of info on muscle spasms and other causes of leg pain.  

Jenn wrote at 2008-04-28 15:10:28
I have a 3 1/2 year old that has the same problem. He wakes up many nights crying that his legs hurt. It gets so bad that I have to soak him in a hot bath. He says his legs hurt so bad that he doesn't even want to walk to the bath tub. I do agree that his sleeping habits are not the best and we are working on not catering to him at night but as a mom you have to listen your instinct about your own child. I am taking mine to the Dr. next week and asking them to rule out everything. It may just be growing pains...and I think that is all it is but I'd rather be on the safe side and rule out everything. Good luck!!

Jennie wrote at 2008-07-01 07:38:52
2 things,

I have two young boys, 3 and 5 both of whom suffer from night-time leg cramps.  the fidgeting may be restless leg, but more likely is the toddler preschooler tendency to "fidget" as the pain worsens to the point of waking them.  My two have seen a physio who explained that boys are more prone to this than girls, but the muscle that stretches along the calf grows somewhat slower than the tibia/fibula and can cause some significant pain extending from the Achilles all the way to the knee.  This is not a "growing pain" as such since is is not related to the actual bone growth, but is still linked to their growth.  We notice it most when the boys have  begun a  rapid increase in food intake and a measurable height growth spurt.  

Things that have helped...the PT recommended a series of stretches to lengthen the muscle, duck walk (on heels with toes up), toe tapping, hanging off the bottom step or a stool(toes on step and heels hanging down) against the wall stretches if they can do this (it's harder than you think) and nightly massages before bed (we use arnica, but it was not part of her recommendation)

Some nights we have to give in and let them have Motrin or Tylenol just so all of us can get some sleep, but these nights have become fewer and farther between.  

The second thing...any doctor who tells you that your child is probably faking it, is unfortunately likely to work in a setting where the majority of his patients do...inner city/downtown hospitals are notorious for this, as so many kids are so attention starved by overworked or neglectful parents.  My son was turned away no less than 5 times by our children's hospital for "faking it" when he first began complaining of chronic and pervasive pain, finally when he was unable to walk and it was evident that I was hysterical, they called in a specialist who diagnosed him with a rare but curable autoimmune disorder (GBS) he was treated for a week in hospital and all is nearly returned to normal 9 months later after extensive physical and occupational therapy (this is how we learned about the leg pains...we thought they were related to his recovery and that our toddler had simply "picked up a habit" from his brother, but no - different issue), but still I was told he was faking it to get out of going to school.

Chin up, talk to your doc, or find a new one who's not as jaded, work through it and sneak in the occasional extra smooch while you are comforting your little one.

Gwen wrote at 2008-12-20 22:45:11
I would take her to a doctor. At age five, I was diagnosed with Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis. I'm not saying your daughter has this, but I know there are a number of conditions that can cause leg pain and my pain is worse at night when my joints are not moving. I also have restless leg which I have had since childhood. Don't ignore it unless you have had a full medical workup.

Melissa wrote at 2009-02-12 19:37:21
I don't think the previous answer was helpful.  My 2-year-old has had 2 sleep studies, and diagnosed with restless leg by 2 different pediatric neurologists.  The study is CLEAR.  If your child has RLS, the problem is not going to 'go away'.

ML, Ph.D. in Child Psychology

Robin wrote at 2009-03-09 00:59:59
Yes I do believe that a child can have restless legs. I have it my mom had it and now my grandson is showing signs of it. He wakes up every couple of hours and my daughter also has watched he sleeping patterns and he kicks out his legs and arms. I haven't found a solution to this but I do know that a warm bath before bed and rubbing his legs with lotion helps.

Chall85 wrote at 2009-10-17 07:11:50
I am sorry but the person above is making it sound like a discipline problem... My daughter who is 5 now would wake up screaming in the middle of the night at least 2-3 times per week she complained each time that her legs, knees, or ankles were hurting. I would give her Tylenol and she would eventually fall back asleep most of the times she would still come into my bedroom crying still complaining. When I asked her pediatrician about it she attributed it to "growing pains" she said that this would especially happen after highly active days... After she said that I did notice that it had occurred more on her active days but I still wish and think that there is something more I can do for her because it still happens. I feel your pain and wish there were more I could tell you but Im doing more research into children having RLS myself.

Brenda wrote at 2009-10-19 13:49:00
After about 5 months of dealing with night pains from my 3 year old, I decided to check online and see what a remedy might be. I thought I was probably the only one going through this. He doesn't complain much during the day, I am sure because of his activity level. At bedtime, he will want me to rub his feet. I will admit, that is probably a soothing feeling, not pain. In the middle of the night at least 3 to 5 times, he will wake up yelling. Sometimes it is his feet, sometimes his leg. Rubbing doesn't always help. I am game for any relief. The doctor suggested growing pains. If that were the case, he should be off the growth chart by now.

Jamie wrote at 2010-03-03 05:44:27
I disagree with this answer completelly.  Children CAN get RLS and there may be a reason why this is happening.  Trust your gut and get a real opinion, by a doctor or sleep specialist.

fay wrote at 2010-03-31 15:43:53
Thats a lot of help!!!

My toddler is suffering from the same thing and has had restless legs every night since she was around 3months! she kicks all night and cant get comfortable, they are obviously to little to make things up at that age!

Alex wrote at 2010-04-17 06:25:12
When I was a toddler till I was about 6 yrs old, I remember experiencing pain in my feet and my leg to include tibia and patella.  I would cry all night, dose off only to wake up minutes later with pain that was consistent.  Grandma would massage my legs and feet in vapor rub and put tight sox on me in hopes the vapors and tightness would bring about some relief.  Today my son who started walking, is starting to wake up twice per night and I fear he's inherited the problem.  I am 36 yrs old and have been medically discharged from the military due to "runner's knee" a misalignment of the patella--a growth issue as a child.  Perhaps it is a combination of things... some RLS, patella misalignment from rapid bone growth and muscles tight and needing to catch up, etc...  whatever it is don't blow it off--I would rather too much than not enough.  If your child slept well before and suddenly wakes up in the middle of night for attention--there is cause for concern!  If you are ignoring it, you may be causing them self worth and trust issues for later on!

kpapenfus wrote at 2010-05-12 19:49:41
We've been going through this with my 2 1/2 year old son.  We recently found out it is caused by low potassium, most likely from a genetic kidney condition.  I'd take her to the doctor.  Don't make her continue to suffer because some behavior modification specialist think they can diagnose a child over the internet.

C Garcia wrote at 2010-05-12 20:48:27
I have a 2 year old who almost every night, once a month like clock work, wakes sobbing and kicking out his legs.  When I lay him back in his crib and rub his back his toes are curled and his calves are rock hard.  Half asleep he says "leg oouwee" I rub out his legs and feet and his legs relax and he is asleep. I have spoke to his Dr. who really just disregarded my concern.  I have been a parent for 22 years and I can see and feel he is in physical pain.  I have found a lot of natural remedies I will try and just wanted to add my two cents for those Drs who disregard parents concerns and blame it on parenting. In conclusion: My son is 36", he was born at 18" - I would think growing .75" per month on average for the last 2 years straight would not be easy.

Gifted with Motherhood wrote at 2010-09-06 15:58:51
Response to "One Very Tired Mom": I came across your question as I was searching for answers to my 3-1/2 year old daughters night-time leg cramps. She too also wakes with leg cramps, however it's not nearly as often as your child. But I do feel compelled to say that while I have tremendous respect and appreciation for the experts we turn to for help, I feel this doctor was too quick to dismiss a potential medical problem as a behaivoral problem in your child. I'd urge you to seek a second opinion. I'll certianly continue my search for answers to my child's pain, because she definately is not just seeking attention. I believe the doctor would've been more helpful by exploring other possibilities such as "growing pains" (bone growth) and suggesting other symptoms we might look for to indicate a more serious problem, or not. Also, a helpful suggestion... I aleviate my child's pain simply by massaging her legs gently and usually within 5 minutes she's back asleep. On rare occassion if she re-awakens and the pain seems worse, I'll give her a dose of over the counter liquid children's pain reliever. Good luck and I wish you and your girls all the best!

muffin wrote at 2010-12-16 08:58:41
I am astounded at the Doctors response to this? why did he bother responding and not passing it to one of his colleagues who may perhaps have more of an interest in children's health and wellbeing. Night cramps exist and obviously cause children great distress. my 2 1/2 year old has eperienced leg and feet cramps on 2 occasions. she is very descriptive about the pain and the location of the pain and it has caused her to cry out in pain. To suggest this is attention seeking behaviour is ludicrous and irresponsible. Growing pains / RLS may be common and have no "cure" or even treatment, but there are other illnesses that could be the cause of this night time pain and therefore surely should all be treated seriously and investigated. My daughter is seeing the doctor tomorrow and i hope that anyone whose young child is experiencing similar pain does not take this doctors advice and actively seeks help for their child.

nate wrote at 2011-04-21 09:08:07
My 4 year old daughter has the same pains,after searching the net for the correct answer i came up with nothing, i took my daughter to the Doctor and all they could come up with was its a virus in her legs.(they actually don't have the answer and believe it or not, its not growing pains!!However i have traced the pattern of my daughters pains...The legs pains only certain times, one night and then after sometime again. finally i got it!!!every time my daughter has gas cool-drink it causes some type of wind in the legs and then it hurts them so bad and especially in the knee areas. I stopped gas cool-drink for her and she is only on juice. Please especially coke its bad for them!!!  

v wrote at 2011-06-08 21:35:20
Ok this is crap! I'm sorry for the language but my daughter has been going through the same thing for years, and I always go in and comfort her for a few minutes and tell her she needs to try and get sleep. So it has nothing to do with coddling a child too much! Obviously it's something more. One thing I found to help in addition to Tylenol was an ice pack (instead of heat). Good luck!

Daryla wrote at 2012-06-11 02:09:37
I have 3 1/2 year old leg pain awful at night . We only gave a bad night of he's played hard during the day. If we don't play hard like running Jumpin riding bike then we gave good night. Only Tylenol helps this pain. During the day he never complains of pain but when he's walking he will go about 20 feet then reach up for me pick him up an say I too tired Nannie . So then I say aww your big boy come on an try to encourage him walk. Then if I don't pick him up he sits down or Lays down an whimpers like a puppy. So I went to dr she said he was doing it for attention or growing pains. I don't think every night for 10 months he's been growing. An waking up crying from sound sleep doesn't sound like its for attention. So  I feel helpless to fix :(

Claire wrote at 2012-08-19 19:29:23

I really sympathise with you and want you to know that no book really helped me my daughter is and remains an extremely difficult sleeper and fidgets all night long legs kicking restless and uncomfortable I would follow your heart and know that sometimes it's a mothers instinct that knows what's best for her child and if you feel something is a miss then follow it up x you have twins and they are both not doing this!!! There's your answer it's not behavioural !!!! Each child is different and you must bite the bullet and never give up on trying to figure out what works for you and your family sleep or no sleep my daughter has reflux and I simply don't have a choice to leave her for 15 minutes at a time she would be in a pool of vomit x I think you are doing a great job and you need positive encouragement as you get through this  

Sammom wrote at 2012-12-04 05:42:19
Cannot believe this "experts" response to the question. Is he even a parent or a doctor? To lay blame and ignore the specific physical complaint seems at once, dismissive and inept. There is clearly some truth to the "doctor's" response, in that we certainly can condition our children's responses by our behaviour, but this child had a definable, specific complaint that she was able to describe as she developed her communication skills.  I would agree there may be some benefit to altering the parenting behaviour to achieve better sleep patterns for the child , but the underlying issue of the child's leg pain was never really addressed, other than to insinuate the child only gave the answer her mother wanted to hear. Who wants to hear their child is in pain?????? Nonsense. I am not an expert, by any stretch of the imagination, but I do credit myself with a modicum of common sense...the child's pain needs follow-up. There are so many causes for leg pain, as the responses to the original expert answer prove. I would take my child to be evaluated by a physician, after trying some of the interventions mentioned by the other posters (comforting, massage, etc). Just a regular old mom's opinion.

andrea wrote at 2013-02-19 01:57:44
Experts don't always know everything.  My son was having leg pains since he was 2, he is now 8. Over and over again we was told it was growing pains.  My son now has trouble walking and still I could not get a doctor to listen to me.  Finally me and his father took it upon ourselves to reach out to a specialist and infact my sons leg and arm muscles are wasting away! We are now finally in the process of finding a diagnoses! So if you truely feel in your gut something is really wrong with your child DON'T take your doctors word...nobody knows your child like you do! My experience may be rare but never think this can't happen to my child...cause I'm here to say YES IT CAN!

my5yro wrote at 2013-05-07 12:54:34
MILK will almost immediately take the pain away!!!!


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Dr. Frederick Blount


Pediatrician, retired. I trained at Childrens Hospital of Philadelphia some years ago and I did private practice here in Winston-Salem for 30 years until I went full time to the Wake Forest Medical School until retirement.

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