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Childhood growing pains: What are they and how to fix them

We probably don’t need to tell you that family life in Sydney can be flat out with your child’s sporting activities throughout the entire year.  You may find that your child is complaining about muscular pain in their legs and knees. 

Recent research shows that nearly 15% of school age children have occasional limb pain, also known as growing pains. A large Australian study by Evans and Scutter found that 37% of children aged four to six years old experience growing pains. 

Unravelling the mystery of growing pains 

Growing pains are often underdiagnosed and misunderstood  by GPs. They are treated as an enigmatic condition, however evidence-based research shows that growing pains do exist. As this is a musculoskeletal condition, the treatment modalities for managing growing pains are relatively simple. In this article, the team at Maroubra Road Physiotherapy will outline how parents can recognise this condition in their child and also common treatment modalities. 

What are growing pains? 

Growing pains are muscular pains that are common in children during periods of rapid growth. They are caused when a child’s bones grow faster than the length of their muscles. This leads to an increase in muscle tension and pain which can be moderate to severe. Growing pains are common in children aged between three to eight years old, as well as in adolescents. Although not considered extremely serious, growing pains can disrupt your child’s sleeping patterns and can negatively affect their overall physical and emotional wellbeing.

What causes growing pains? 

Growing pains occur as a result of rapid periods of musculoskeletal growth. There are also other factors that can impact the likelihood of your child experiencing growing pains. 

 

  • High impact sports: Sports that involve running and jumping can aggravate growing pains. Non-weight bearing sports like swimming and cycling are less likely to cause pain. 
  • Running gait: How your child runs can influence the likelihood they will experience pain. 
  • Foot position and pronation: How your child foot pronates or rolls can aggravate growing pains.  
  • Previous strains and sprains: A history of previous strains and sprains that were poorly managed. 
  • Inadequate footwear: Unsuitable footwear may contribute to problems with how your child runs and moves, leading to pain. 
  • A low pain threshold: Research shows that a child with a lower tolerance to pain is more likely to experience growing pains during key growth periods of their childhood and adolescence.  

 

 

The symptoms of growing pains 

  • Your child reports mild to severe pain in the legs, knees, shins and heels that may keep them awake at night. 
  • This may occur in both legs or be worse in one leg. 
  • The pain may be worse during or after a period of intense physical activity or high impact sport
  • Your child reports pain that is worse in the evening and at night, but often improves by the morning, after bed rest. 

How Maroubra Road Physiotherapy can help your child 

Physiotherapy is highly effective at treating growing pains and hastening recovery time. At Maroubra Road Physiotherapy, we provide an individualised and caring approach to our treatments for children, including hands-on treatment, exercise prescriptions, at home exercise programs, stretching and much more. 

The team at Maroubra Road Physiotherapy will ask you questions about your child’s health, their pain, activity levels and the sports they participate in. The physiotherapist will do a physical assessment that may include an assessment of range of motion, palpation of the muscles, bones and tendons, along with a series of physical tests of muscle and ligament strength. 

Then the physiotherapist will assess the way your child moves, their gait and how they run and jump. In complex cases, the physiotherapist may suggest further investigations and refer them to a doctor for blood tests or scans in order to rule out other conditions. From this information, the physiotherapist will make a diagnosis.

Treatment modalities: growing pains

Once the physiotherapist has established a diagnosis of growing pains, then a number of treatments may be suggested. 

Strengthening and balancing exercises

Strengthening core and global muscle groups is essential. The team at Maroubra Road Physiotherapy can design a strengthening program that will be tailored to the specific needs of your child. 

Home-based exercise programs

A home-based exercise program may include proprioception (balance) exercises as well as customised drills that are related to the sports you child plays. 

Strapping tape

This may be useful for relieving pressure in painful areas of the leg and joints and to ease inflammation. 

Orthotic inserts and/or suitable footwear

Biomechanical issues with walking can be corrected by the use of customised orthotic inserts, or with shoes that are supportive and help with correcting walking issues. 

Muscle mobilisation and massage

The physiotherapist may use massage, stretching, muscle manipulation and heat in order to relax and lengthen tight muscles and to mobilise stiff joints. 

Rest time 

If your child is experiencing severe pain that won’t abate, the physiotherapist may recommend a period of complete rest from sport and any intensive physical activity. In these cases, other forms of gentle and low impact exercises may be recommended such as swimming or cycling, as well as a personalised treatment program. Children can normally resume physical activity again, the key is finding the right activity that won’t aggravate the pain.  

Personalised recommendations for your child 

In all cases, the physiotherapists at Maroubra Road Physio always respond to the needs of our patients with personalised recommendations on treatment modalities. 

A corrective program and ongoing management of growing pains should be prescribed early on in order to correct musculoskeletal problems in children. For treatment and help for your child, speak with our experienced and caring team today on 02 9314 3888.  

References 

Burns, Joshua (2018) Health Check: are growing pains real? Children’s Hospital at Westmead & University of Sydney, The Conversation. 

Evans AM, Scutter SD (2004) Prevalence of “Growing pains” in young children. J Pediatr. 2004, 145: 255-258. 10.1016/j.jpeds.2004.04.045.

Evans AM (2008) Growing pains: contemporary knowledge and recommended practice, Journal of Foot and Ankle Research.

Uziel, Yosef (2007) Growing Pains in Children, Journal of Pediatric Rheumatology. Yosef. 

How to avoid injury when training for the Sydney Marathon

Whether you’re a seasoned marathon runner or a first-timer, embarking on the Sydney marathon is an exciting, daunting and admirable adventure. In this blog post, you will learn about how to avoid common injuries from long-distance running as well as how to spot warning signs that something is wrong. 

Top tips for avoiding injury during marathon training 

  • Always warm up and cool down properly. You can follow our helpful hints on warm-ups and warm-downs in our previous blog post. 
  • You should start at a slower pace when running and gradually build up your running intensity and distance over time. 
  • Make sure you stay hydrated during your run. 
  • Avoid doing too much, too early in your training. You should attempt a graduated training program that includes periods of 24-48 hours of rest between running sessions. 
  • Mix-up your runs with other forms of exercise, such as strengthening and core-focused exercises (Pilates and Yoga), along with swimming and cross-training. 

Signs that something is not quite right 

Constant pain: If you’re experiencing constant and unrelenting pain, then it’s time to seek professional advice from a physiotherapist. 

Body stiffness: If you have ever woken up the day after a run and found yourself feeling as stiff as a board, this is a sign you’re not adequately warming up or warming down. This can be improved with proper warm-ups and warm-downs. 

Excessive fatigue: This may be a sign you don’t have enough recovery time between training sessions. An exercise physiologist, personal trainer or physiotherapist will be able to advise you on the optimum timings and intensity that is right for you. 

Do’s and Don’ts of Personal Safety

Noise cancellation headphones that block out all noise can be hazardous for personal safety. So if you do enjoy running with headphones on, stay extra alert on the roads.

If you run during the night time, you should stick to well-lit paths. It’s also a good idea to run with a friend and also to wear high-vis clothing, to make sure you are visible to cars, bikes and other people. 

When running during the heat of the summer, it’s a good idea to wear a hat and sunscreen to protect against sun damage.

Common marathon training injuries 

Whether you’re a novice or a seasoned runner, you may be familiar with the saying – Make Pain Your Friend. It’s the opposite in reality though, you don’t need to suffer to be a runner. 

Knee injuries 

Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome (PFPS): Pain right behind the kneecap is common for long-distance runners. It’s also known as patellofemoral pain syndrome or “runner’s knee”. As you take a leap forward and impact with the ground, you experience pain. 

Meniscus injuries: The menisci are two wedge-shaped cartilage pads that act as shock-absorbers for the knees. Strong quadricep muscles help absorb the forces around the knee when you strike the ground, thus decreasing the forces running places through the joint. Good core and gluteal muscle strength also help with lower limb control when running and thereby also assisting in reducing the forces through the joint.

You can help prevent meniscal injuries by wearing appropriate footwear, cross-training and strength training.  Also, adequate hydration and dietary considerations need to come into play. If you need advice, contact the friendly team at Maroubra Road Physiotherapy.

Lateral hip pain 

When you feel a dull ache on the outside of your hip, either during a run or afterwards, there may be a couple of likely causes. 

Iliotibial band syndrome: This is the thick fascial band that runs down the outside of the thigh. If you’re wearing old worn shoes, running on a slope,  or have weak buttock muscles (hip abductor muscles), this may irritate your iliotibial band and cause injury. 

Bursitis: This is a build-up of inflammation , caused by friction in the fluid filled sacs between your tendons and bones. Pain may appear during or after a run. For a personalised assessment of your condition, you should see a physiotherapist. Although in the meantime you should ease back on your training and apply ice to the area, following a run. 

 

Foot injuries 

Plantar Fasciitis: The plantar fascia is the thick connective tissue which supports the arch on the bottom of the foot. Plantar fasciitis causes pain in the bottom of the heel.  This is caused by overuse, poor biomechanics, improper running shoes or increasing training intensity too quickly. Your physiotherapist will be able to advise you regarding appropriate treatment, possible orthotic support, or refer you to a podiatrist. 

Stress Fracture: A stress fracture is a crack in the bone caused by repetitive stress or force, often from overuse. A stress-fracture may be difficult to diagnose, even with an X-ray. Stress fractures will require time off from running. At least for six weeks in order to recover. The good news is, once it’s healed, the pain generally won’t return.  It is important to address the cause of the stress fracture, to prevent this injury from occurring again.

The friendly and experienced team at Maroubra Road Physiotherapy will enable you to improve the mechanics of your body. We will also provide you with a tailored strengthening program and give you running advice which will help you to confidently hit your strides for the Sydney Marathon.

 

Strengthening exercises are key 

A recent study in the American Journal of Sports Medicine found that runners with patellofemoral pain syndrome had significant improvements to their pain and knee function, after they employed an eight week hip and core strengthening program.

Maroubra Road Physiotherapy will be able to pinpoint any issues with your training and help with pain and preventing and treating injuries along the way.

We can provide a range of solutions which may include taping, massage, strengthening exercises and stretching work. Remember that whether you end up coming first or last on the day of the marathon – you’re still a champion and deserve a round of applause! 

If you would like to book an appointment with one of our experienced physiotherapists, please make an online booking or give us a call on 02 9314 3888.

References 

ESSA: Exercise and Sports Science Australia  (2019) Running the Distance

WebMD (2019) Common Running Injuries Prevention and Treatment 

Sports Medicine Australia (2019) Running Fact Sheet University of Wisconsin (2010) A Proximal Strengthening Program Improves Pain, Function, and Biomechanics in Women With Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome. Dr Earl, Jennifer et. al. 

Six common DIY injuries and how to prevent them

TV shows such as The Block have made millions of Australians passionate about DIY. The appeal is real, because with some skill and determination, you can turn an old house with good bones, into a stunningly beautiful, renovated home. Yet for any DIY quest, it’s important that you understand the risks involved.

Fast Facts About Aussie DIY injuries

  • 30% of all adult injuries in Australia occur in the home and garden.
  • Home injuries result in more time off work than workplace injuries.
  • If the principles of workplace OH&S were applied to home DIY, such as using the correct tools and lifting techniques, it would prevent many home injuries.
  • Young men aged between 20 to 39 years old are the most commonly injured in home DIY accidents.  
  • The most common injuries are lacerations and wounds from foreign bodies and operating machinery, followed by musculoskeletal injuries, such as lower back pain, shoulder and elbow complaints.

Source: Monash University, Accident Research Centre, Department of Human Services and Health (1999) Prevention of Injuries associated with Do-It-Yourself activities.

Prevention is always better than a cure. So here are some simple tips from Maroubra Road Physiotherapy, which may help to prevent some common DIY injuries.

Wear protective gear

We don’t want to dampen your enthusiasm for keeping your home beautiful, however you should wear protective gear when doing DIY at home.  You should wear steel-capped boots, safety glasses, safety gloves and earmuffs when operating power tools.

Many avoidable injuries to the back, feet and hands frequently occur because individuals weren’t wearing protective gear. Despite the Aussie stereotype, thongs are not considered to be safe DIY footwear. If you really must wear rugby shorts when doing DIY, at least make sure they aren’t Queensland maroon!

See the table below for a startling reality check, about why protective gear is always a good idea when using power tools.

Source: DIY injuries fact sheet

A DIY expert always checks his tools and techniques

Doing a preliminary safety check of your tools is an often overlooked part of any DIY job. When getting your tools and equipment such as ladders, saws and grinders out of storage, make sure you check that they are still operating correctly before you use them.

For this reason, it’s always a good idea to keep safety guides for your power tools and equipment. They provide important insights. It’s not commonly known that power tools can cause tennis elbow, more frequently than actually playing tennis! Firmly gripping a power tool over many hours results in pain in the outside of the elbow.

Lift and carry furniture the back-friendly way

Many people visit our clinic because they have incorrectly lifted heavy furniture or other objects, resulting in injury.

There is a correct way to lift heavy items, which will protect your knees and back.

For heavy loads, bend your body to lift from the knees, rather than bending from your lower back.

While lifting the item, keep it close to your body and never bend or twist with any heavy object. For carrying or transporting heavy items like white ware, TVs or sofas, use a wheel-trolley or gurney.  

At Maroubra Road Physiotherapy, when it comes to common back and neck injuries, we see the whole person, rather than just the injury. We create step-by-step programmes that are uniquely tailored to meet individual circumstances and needs.

Be careful on that ladder, daredevil!  

Summer is an amazing time to get outside and clean the gutters, paint the exterior of the home or fix any broken roof tiles. In order to ensure you don’t fall and experience serious multiple traumas or even death, you should stabilise your ladder on even ground.

If you must climb up high on uneven ground, make sure you have a supporting person holding the ladder steady beneath you at all times. Always make sure that the ladder is locked in place before heading up.

Avoid repetitive DIY tasks for long periods

Are you going to paint the house, pave the driveway or retile the family room this summer? Repetitive tasks that require repeated movements over many hours can result in muscle overuse injuries, strains, sprains to the hands, arms, neck, back and shoulders.

Painting the ceiling or walls often leads to shoulder injuries, like a bursitis or an injury to the rotator cuff.

This is because keeping your arm elevated overhead may compromise the position of your shoulder. This can result in a pinching of the soft tissues where the shoulder blade meets the collar bone. A sudden movement during this kind of work could result in an acute tearing of the muscles in the shoulder.

To avoid this, make sure you get up and have a break or do something else every two hours to avoid repetitive strain injuries.

Our friendly and highly experienced team at Maroubra Road Physiotherapy treat these kinds of injuries every day. We use a combination of soft tissue release techniques, exercise-based rehabilitation and manual therapy.  This helps to strengthen the muscles and prevent future re-injury.

Avoid staying stationary in one position too long

Gardening involves many hours hunched over the garden bed or hauling heavy bags of potting mix. If you need to remain still for long periods, this can cause a lower back injury.  By doing appropriate pause exercises and maintaining postural awareness, you can avoid common strains and sprains. Doing so will enable you to cope better with the physical demands of DIY.

Good luck on your quest for a renovated home and garden! You can expect a few aches and pains if you’re not used to lots of exercise. However if this persists for more than a week, then you should get a physiotherapy assessment to ensure that you don’t worsen your injury or lengthen your recovery time.

Doing so, also means you are recovering from injury in a personalised way that is safe and beneficial to your health. Speak with the team at Maroubra Road Physiotherapy today to book an appointment on (02) 9314 3888.

References

Flinders University, Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2017) DIY injuries fact sheet

Monash University, Accident Research Centre, Department of Human Services and Health (1999) Prevention of Injuries associated with Do-It-Yourself activities.

CanStar Blue (2018) Six DIY injuries to watch out for.

DIY at home Government of NSW, Department of Health (2014) Do-It-Yourself Safely.   

Government of Western Australia. Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety (2016) Avoid injuries with DIY work