Growth pains and naturopathy

You can be worried when you child wakes up and cries in the middle of the night because his legs hurt but don’t worry too much. Maybe he is just growing!

When my daughter was five years old, she had pains in her legs. A visit to the doctor’s later; she had been diagnosed with “growth pains”.

Growth pains affect 3 to 37 % of children. They usually hit in two stages: in early childhood between 3 and 5 years old and later, between 8 and twelve years old.

Nobody really knows what growth pains are, although they tend to be found in the same family and seem to disappear spontaneously at the end of childhood.

According to Goodyear-Smith, “growth pains are usually non-articular bilateral and intermittent pains that occur in the evening or at night in children aged 3 to 12 years. The diagnosis of growth pain is one of exclusion.” 1 Curiously, despite its “growth pains” appellation, this pain does not seem to be related to growth.

Here are the common symptoms of growth pains2 
  • For 2 children out of 3, the pain is located in the shins, calves, thighs or behind the knees.
  • The pain is almost always on both sides.
  • The pain usually appears towards the end of the day or at night, often waking the child.
  • The duration of the pain can vary from a few minutes to a few hours.
  • The intensity can range from mild to very severe.
  • In the morning, the child is almost never in pain.
  • There are no objective signs of inflammation on physical examination.
  • The pain comes in episode with pain-free periods lasting from several days to several months, although the pain can also be present every day.
  • 43% of children have episodes of growth pains at least once a week.
  • Parents can often predict when the child will feel pain after days of increased activity.
If you think your child is suffering from growth pains, it is important to visit your doctor and rule out other potential conditions, especially if the pain is on one side or is accompanied by swelling.

The view of a licensed naturopath is that growth pains are related to an imbalance in the absorption of minerals such as calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, silica and fluorine. An excess of sugar and protein can also disrupt the child’s body. Sugar acidifies the body.

Let me tell you my story. My daughter has suffered from leg pain, especially during sleep. At first we did not know why, but one day I noticed that every time she ate a large amount of ground beef, that is to say two meals in a row, she always had growth pains in her legs in the evening!

It was found that children who eat a lot of dairy products are more likely to suffer from growth pains than other children. We must not forget that milk is rich in proteins and it is possible to have too much. An excess in acidic proteins acidifies tissues and can cause bone pain, muscle pain, and even irritability and fatigue. Beef is the most acidifying meat. Also be aware that foods from animal sources are rich in arachidonic acid, which stimulates inflammation and therefore pain.

Some dietary advice
  • Reduce the consumption of dairy products and red meat.
  • Cut sugars, juices, chocolate soy milk, cookies and candy.
  • Give nuts and seeds. Try sunflower and pumpkin seeds or nut butters such as almond or sesame butters. These are excellent sources of calcium.
  • Eat fishes that are rich in omega-3, 2-3 times per week like herring, mackerel, sardines and salmon. Omega-3s help fight inflammation.
More useful tips

Nothing soothes a child in pain better than the warm hands of his parents. A massage is an excellent way of relaxing and soothing muscle pain. You can also use arnica in oil or cream form. I also like to use an oil to which I add a few drops of lavender essential oil. Lavender soothes and calms children, helping them sleep. 

  • Don’t forget the benefits of a warm bath to which you can add a lavender product.
  • Try biochemical salt n 13+. 2-3 tablets once to twice a day, before meals, for 2 to 3 months. This product helps balance the absorption of minerals by the body.

Note that a lack of vitamin D may have a role in growth pains in children. All children with pain should be tested for vitamin D. A research has shown that only 6% of children with growth pains had normal vitamin D levels!3

Growth pains are avoidable and unnecessary during childhood. Food is always linked with the health of the body. Do not hesitate to consult a licensed naturopathic doctor to optimize your health and that of your children.


  1. The National Center for Biotechnology Information – Growing pains
  2. The National Center for Biotechnology Information – Growing pains in children
  3. The National Center for Biotechnology Information – Vitamin D levels in children with growing pains.
Dominique Abran

Dominique Abran is member of the Association Des Naturopathes Agrées De Quebec (ANAQ) and is pleased to share her experience as a naturopath (and mother) to help you maintain and restore your health through natural means. Naturopathy offers a holistic approach based on numerous resources allowing you to regain balance and work towards a better life. In addition, it helps you have a smoother pregnancy, during which you receive personalized support. Follow-ups include a complete health check and detailed management of your nutritional needs through advanced laboratory testing. A prevention plan also minimizes the risk of experiencing discomfort during pregnancy. This monitoring is offered in three meetings as part of a package that includes a hair-tissue mineral analysis. For more information, visit her website at Dominique Abran, accredited naturopathic doctor Clinique Santé du Quartier 1133 St-Joseph Est Montréal H2J 1L5  

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