The Danger Of Ignoring 'Growing Pain'

WCBS—July 30, 2008

Growing pains are a bit of a misnomer since there's no evidence that growth actually causes the pain in the leg that's usually associated with "growing pains."

It's most common between ages 2 and 12 and is probably due to muscle overuse when kids are extra active, and will go away on their own. But what if it's not growing pains?

Siblings Justine and Michael Miano had hip pain for years that was attributed to "growing pains" at first. But that wasn't the case, and their conditions did not improve. Justine and Michael both suffer from a condition called hip impingement, which can severely limit range of motion in addition to causing excruciating pain if not identified and then corrected.

"Hip impingement means when the hip is put through range of motion, the bones actually collide earlier than they should. The soft tissues get damaged, the labrum, which is the rim of the socket, it gets damaged and torn, and then in the later stages the cartilage, the actual lining of the joint, starts getting damaged," said Robert Buly, M.D., of Hospital for Special Surgery in New York.

The siblings have had corrective surgery at HSS on one of their hips, and are anticipating their final surgeries over winter break of this year, also at HSS. The fact that the Mianos realized that their condition was serious fairly early lessens the likelihood that Justine or Michael will need a total hip replacement later in life.

But how can parents tell if their children's "growing pains" are serious?

"Pain that doesn't go away, pain that seems to be out of proportion to what kids usually get. And especially if the pain is persistent and associated with other signs like lack of rotation, lack of normal range of motion," said Dr. Buly.

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