Are those just growing pains, or a symptom of hypermobility?
When young bodies are growing and changing so quickly, growing pains can be expected. Children between the ages of 3 to 12 can experience them and even though they can be quite painful at the time, they don’t actually cause any damage. Cramps and aches can usually be eased with gentle massage, stretching and heat pads.
However, pain in your child’s joints can be a symptom of hypermobility syndrome. This occurs when the ligaments that hold a joint together are too loose. If your child has hypermobility, their joints will be able to move beyond the normal range expected for that joint in a child of their age.
(You may have heard hypermobility referred to as being ‘double jointed’. This term is actually not quite correct, as the condition has to do with loose ligaments rather than a literal duplication of joints).
So how do you know when your child’s complaints of pain are to do with hypermobility in their joints rather than just part of growing up?
There are a couple of indicators that can let you know that something isn’t quite right. Parents usually first notice when their child starts performing a “trick” where they can make their thumb touch their wrist, or entertain their friends with unusual body contortions. Fatiguing early with activity and even your child being unable to sit still for extended periods as they find it uncomfortable are other subtle signs of hypermobility syndrome.
As children move into their teenage years, their muscles and joints become tighter and stronger and their connective tissue is more developed. Quite often children with hypermobility have tight muscle groups like the hamstring and calf muscles which is a form of compensation for hypermobile joints and can cause problems of their own.
With children that have hypermobile joints, pain will commonly affect the legs, but can be anywhere. Sometimes, the affected joints swell after exercise or at night.
As the pain of hypermobility can mimic growing pains, juvenile arthritis or even certain genetic connective tissue disorders, an accurate assessment is needed. Simple mobility and flexibility tests by a professional as well as a thorough history taking will help isolate the symptoms and determine hypermobility in your child or raise the index of suspicion of another underling cause.
After a proper diagnosis, the types of recommendations might include:
– Exercise: strengthening the muscles around loose joints and stretching any tight muscles
– Protection: wearing braces and tapes during activity; wearing shoes with good support; avoiding certain postures and orthotics.
Have you noticed symptoms of hypermobility in your child? Junction Foot and Ankle Group are an experienced general podiatry practice who frequently deal with all issues affecting the feet and ankles and have a special interest in children with hypermobility syndrome.
If hypermobility is identified, Junction Foot and Ankle Group can help manage the condition as your child grows and give you the appropriate information and assistance. Call us on 9250 1676 to book an appointment or follow the link to book online.
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