Growing pains are common in children and can make their legs and feet ache at night. The pain can also be felt in the knees, thighs, and calves. It can occur on both sides of the body. Sometimes growing pains occur in the stomach and can cause headaches. It happens in episodes mostly at night off and on during growth spurts. The episodes can start as early as afternoon and evening, but usually go away by the next morning. One common question is if there can be growing pains in adults. Read on to see if this is even possible.
Are There Growing Pains in Adults?
There would not be “growing pains” in adults because they have stopped growing. Young adults as old as the age 22 may still feel them at times, but after that age the pains should stop completely. In adults over the age of 22, things that can mimic growing pains include:
1. Joint Hypermobility
If you have joints that can be “overextended” during your daily activities, you may experience pain during the night when resting. This is because when you do normal activities you may injure your joints slightly during the day and they can feel achy at night when you are resting.
2. Lyme Disease
Lyme disease is caused by the bite of an infected tick. The pain experienced with Lyme disease may mimic growing pains in adults. This is a bacterial infection that is easily treated with antibiotics. Some people continue to experience mild pain even after treatment.
3. Leg Cramps
Disturbances in certain electrolytes can cause leg cramps that feel like growing pains. This includeslow magnesium, low potassium, and low calcium. If you feel these pains or cramping at night during sleep, see your doctor for a blood test of these levels. They are easily corrected with supplementation.
4. Blood Clots
Leg pain (growing pains in adults) can be caused by blood clots in the veins in the legs. This is a serious issue and needs immediate medical attention. If you have redness, heat and swelling to the touch in an area of your leg, get to an emergency room for an evaluation.
5. Shin Splits
Shin splints are caused by overuse of the legs during sports, dance, or running. The pain runs along the front of the shinbone and can feel like growing pains. The condition is treated with ice and rest.
Fibromyalgia is a pain syndrome that can affect many areas of the body. It can feel like deep bone pain or chronic muscle pain. It often occurs in flares after periods of activity and can be treated with certain antidepressant medications, pain relievers, and rest.
7. Restless Leg Syndrome
Restless leg syndrome may show up as a painful or itchy feeling in the legs at night. This is thought to be from too much activity during the day. Restless leg syndrome is also thought to be caused by over activity during the day causing leg achiness at night.
Osteosarcoma is bone cancer that mostly happens in children, teens and young adults but they still can happen to adults and elders. It causes bone pain in the legs that feel like the growing pains you experienced during childhood. The good news is this type of cancer is easily treated with radiation and chemo and the prognosis is good as long as the cancer is confined to the bone.
Experiences of Others
“Growing pains” in adults can be unsettling. Many people wonder what is going on with their bodies and question why they would feel growing pains. Here are some experiences of others:
“I’ve been having pains in my legs that I am calling “growing pains” because this is how they felt when I was very young. I would go to bed and cry because my legs hurt so badly. Now I am 29 years old and it has started up again every night in both my arms and my legs. It makes me cry and sometimes I feel like the pain is so bad I can’t breathe.
My doctor told me that it isn’t actually growing pains, because I am done growing. She had me start to keep a diary of the pain, how long it lasts and a number on the pain scale. She also wants and exact location of the pain.
I’ve noticed it isn’t in my bones, but in my knee joints and wrists. I wasn’t realizing it was actually joint pains because my arms and legs ache all the way up and down. It often happens on one side or the other, but I can’t put together any pattern with my activities. It just comes and goes for no reason. My doctor is wondering if I am showing signs ofearly osteoarthritis.”
Cindy, age 29, suspected of early osteoarthritis
“When I go to bed I feel very bad pain in both of my legs up to the knees. It happens on both sides and aches all night. They tested me and I was severely deficient in vitamin D, but after they brought my levels back up the pain continued at night. It feels like growing pains, but I’m an adult and not growing anymore. They also tested me for everything else that may cause leg pains and everything was negative.
It only comes on after I lay down to sleep, so the doctors told me it is most likely restless leg syndrome. They tried putting me on medication for it but I can’t tolerate the side-effects so I stopped using it. It seems to calm down if I don’t overuse my legs during the day.”
Mark, age 30, suspected of restless leg syndrome
Remedies for “Growing Pains in Adults”
While they aren’t really growing pains in adults, there are some remedies that can help. These include:
- Hot Compresses – Use a heating pad or a warm towel to wrap your legs and relieve pain. Use them for 20 minutes on and 20 minutes off to avoid burning your skin.
- Over-the-Counter Pain Relievers – Try anover-the-counter pain reliever or anti-inflammatory at bedtime to help you get to sleep easier.
- Massage – If you don’t have a blood clot, massage your legs at bedtime to ease any muscle pain.
- Stretching – You may stretch your muscles before exercise, but it is equally important to stretch your muscles before you go to bed. This can really help a lot with restless leg syndrome.