Healthy Kids
  • South Central Wisconsin
  • September 2013
Written by  Wade E. Anunson, DC

Growing pains … really?

When I was a kid, it was common for our family medical doctor to write off knee, hip, ankle, back, neck and shoulder aches and pains as “growing pains.” Along with that diagnosis came the treatment plan: “Do nothing. He’ll grow out of it.” And that was it.

It’s amazing how deeply this myth permeates our societal views when kids elicit pain and symptoms directly caused from musculoskeletal imbalances. At one point, we’ve got to ask ourselves, “Really, the body is so stupid that it can grow faster than it’s capable of keeping pace with?” Maybe it’s just me, but it never made sense that the body “should” be in pain as it grows. Better yet, if we thought the body wasn’t stupid, but to the contrary, highly intelligent and adaptable, how then would we perceive our children’s symptoms?

Growth spurts

When I was in grade school, I found myself looking up to most of my classmates. I remember being about the same height when school got out, only to be shocked at how much a few classmates shot up an inch or two after summer vacation. Growth spurts do put a demand on the body, yet not so much that the body isn’t capable of handling it or adapting to it … unless there’s an interference with the spine and normal function, of course.

With sports like soccer, baseball, football, lacrosse and hockey, and the amount of hours spent practicing and playing, it’s understandable that our children’s young, growing and developing bodies would go through some bumps, bruises, injuries and, of course, soreness. More frequently, we’re seeing the increased prevalence of musculoskeletal injuries, strains and sprains, and more serious head traumas ending up with concussions. Our awareness and knowledge today is much greater than when I was a kid, when most things were chalked up as “growing pains”. We have a greater understanding of how to treat these myriad injuries after they occur, but often think too late of strategies to better prepare our children’s bodies to prevent or minimize injuries.


Seven out of 10 patients I evaluate want some form of exercise or stretch they can perform on their own to fix their perceived problem. While approximately 6 out of those same 10 have already been “unsuccessfully stretching” to relieve the pain, the requests persist. In fact, the more neuromuscular imbalances I treat, the more confirmation I get that muscular performance is a byproduct of neurologic tone. In other words, if stretching the muscle that is spasming, splinting or achingly tense doesn’t resolve the issue, then the muscle is not the problem. Rocket science, right? Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely appreciate the self-responsibility these patients are showing, but the message they need to hear is that the nerves control the muscle, not the other way around. Stretching cold muscles can actually lead to more injuries. Before stretching, do a five-minute light run to engage and warm up the biggest muscles in your body, the gluteals, hamstrings and quadriceps. Increased blood flow and circulation will prepare the muscle for a more effective stretch. Think warm and elastic verses cold and contracted.

Syndromes like Osgood-Schlatter for knee pain, and sports hernias for the groin and lower abdomen are theoretically preventable overuse injuries related to chronic pelvic and lower spine imbalance. Sports demand enough on children’s bodies to perform with agility — muscles and soft tissue contracting, flexing and stretching in brilliantly harmonious fashion. Children don’t need the added strain on tissues from spinal imbalance and asymmetrical habit patterns.

Remember, symptoms aren’t to be ignored or simply medicated. Caution the recommendation of over-the-counter NSAIDS (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) for children’s chronic aches and pains. They carry the risk of greater tissue injury and set the stage for similar habits as adults.

It’s important to realize that postural habits and hip, shoulder and spine imbalances detectable at a young age can directly cause the aches and pains once referred to as “growing pains,” but with proper care, they are very correctable. Equally important is their effect on neuromuscular performance and the increased likelihood of injury. If you have questions about your child’s alignment and the possible connection to their health, you’re welcome to contact me.

Encourage your children to practice hard, play well and take time to recover! 

Dr. Wade Anunson is a 1994 graduate of Palmer College of Chiropractic in Davenport, Iowa. His holistic approach to patient care stems from his own process of self discovery through chronic respiratory problems as a child. Dr. Anunson’s passion is to share the body’s extraordinary nature and unlock stuck patterns that block our ability to adapt, grow and express our potential. He currently directs a thriving practice in Madison, Anunson Chiropractic, SC. For more information, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., call 608-829-2250 or visit

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