One of our key groups we look after in our practice is active adolescents – we love helping your kids or grandkids get back to their sport or activity and we do a lot of work behind the scenes to stay up to date with injuries and problems that affect adolescents because they are different to the problems that adults have. So what exactly are ‘growing pains’ and what should you, as a parent, carer or grandparent do about them?
Firstly, ‘growing pains’ is not a useful diagnosis because it doesn’t guide a treatment or management pathway. It tends to be used by parents or coaches when there is no clear reason for a young active person to have pain. It’s easy to blame it on the fact they are still growing – after all, they should ‘grow out’ of whatever problem they have! A good physio knows there are a handful of specific problems that affect the growing athlete. In a nutshell these are caused by the interaction of growth and sport or activity – you don’t see these problems in sedentary adolescents. Some of these problems are self-limiting which means with physiotherapy and the right advice the problem will resolve. Good examples of this are Sever’s disease (affecting the heel) and Osgood Schlatter’s disease (affecting the knee). But there are a couple of serious problems like osteonecrosis (dying of the growing bone) which mean strict rest from sport with crutches for 6 weeks.
There are also a number of problems which are related to muscle development and posture in the growing body. Posture and muscle re-training are often (but not always) part of the recovery for young swimmers with shoulder pain and netballers with knee pain. In these patients a joint may be sore because it is being used or loaded in the incorrect way and with the correct remedial exercises and advice we can restore normal movement and use of that joint. Just like picking up your car after a major service, things feel better after a good ‘tune up’.
In summary, don’t accept the diagnosis of ‘growing pains’ and if your kids or grandkids are complaining they are sore during or after sport please come in and see us – we love finding out and solving problems for the growing athlete and have the right knowledge, experience and skills to work out what they need to make a full recovery.