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7 Fast Acting Natural Remedies for Growing Pains in the Middle of the Night

Looking for natural treatments for growing pains like essential oils and other home remedies? Here’s how to get rid of growing pains. 

Tips for helping with growing pains. Quick and easy enough for middle of the night relief.

How is it that my naturally raised kids who are always the shortest in their class wake up in the middle of the night with growing pains all the time?

I’m ever grateful when it’s just a sore knee and not an ear infection that has caused them to cry out, but I still want to help them get relief and get all of us back to sleep as soon as possible.

It turns out this isn’t Murphy’s Law of parenting at it again, but that “Growing Pains” itself is a misnomer. Growing pains don’t actually have much to do with kids growing, although the child feels a lot better to think that they are getting bigger through all that pain!

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Just last night my three-year-old woke up crying, and as I was trying to figure out what was wrong, I ascertained through his frantic, only somewhat-coherent explanation that he must be scared. I caught the phrase “bad guys,” and with the speed at which he was talking, I went with the “I’m scared” scenario.

I know you’re scared, Mommy’s here now, you’re safe, breathe slowly, it’s ok…

All these appeasing and reassuring words were coming out of my mouth in that soft, gentle voice that moms use in the middle of the night.

It didn’t seem to be working, which made sense when he finally called out, “I need some little balls and a hot pad!” I realized that actually his ankle hurt. Or maybe it was his knee. Growing pains struck again!

I apologized and said, “Oh, you have growing pains! I’m sorry, I thought you were scared.”

Girl sleeping and mom rubbing feet.

“Oh I’m scared too,” he said. The life of a three-year-old in the middle of the night is complicated!

RELATED: Parenting Toddlers with Tantrums

What Causes Growing Pains in Kids?

If you ask my kids, growing pains refer to any pains in legs or ankles that wake them up in the middle of the night. But let’s see what the experts say.

“In general, growing pains are felt in both legs, especially in the front of the thighs, back of legs (calves), or behind the knees. Despite the name “growing pains,” there is no firm evidence that growing pains are linked to growth spurts.(1)

 

In fact, doctors even call them “recurrent nocturnal limb pain in children”. (2)

Many think growing pains might just be sore muscles after a day of big activity like running, jumping or sports – they tend to be more pronounced after kids have very active days. (1) This could be a result of decreased bone strength and/or lower threshold of pain in general in the child. Kids who are “hypermobile” (aka very flexible) may also experience more growing pains. It is thought that growing pains are a non-inflammatory pain. (3)

Often a child doesn’t want you to touch an everyday owie – recall the screeches of pain and suffering the last time you tried to wash off a scraped knee from a driveway tumble! But with growing pains, massage and rubbing tend to feel good (if it doesn’t, you may be dealing with something different or more serious). (4)

Sources vary wildly, but likely 20 to 40 percent of children under 12 have growing pains at some point, and they’re slightly more common in girls than in boys. (5)

What a shame that most modern medicine recommends pain relievers and almost nothing else – even though the “growing pains” are supposed to last only 15-30 minutes! (6) And apparently some kids are even on non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID)…how does that make sense when growing pains are non-inflammatory in nature??? 🙁 52% of kids with growing pains are treated with medication – you can do better! (7)

My friend Heather has a lot of great ideas about what you can do to build your child’s resistance to growing pains during the day (nutritional changes), but what about when it’s the middle of the night and you need relief, NOW?

Here are 7 ways to help your child get back to sleep, fast.

How to Get Rid of Growing Pains

Mom massaging child's foot to relieve growing pains.

1. Massage the Growing Pain in Your Child’s Leg

As soon as I ascertain where a child’s growing pain is, I start a good, firm rubbing on the area. I want them to know with great immediacy that I am taking care of them, and it also really helps to apply that counter pressure to alleviate the pain. (This I know well from Baby #1’s labor filled with back pain – my husband says his legs were so sore the next day from all the counter-pressure pushing…aw, poor guy, right?)

Although growing pains are technically in the muscle, for my kids they tend to centralize at the knees and ankles. My pediatrician confirmed that this is really normal. So I try to concentrate my massage around those joints.

Bright yellow flower

I often focus on the back of the knee with small circles, or I might go up and down the thigh and calf muscles.

2. Homeopathic Arnica Works Fast for Growing Pains

Let’s take note before we move forward that I am not a doctor, nurse or practitioner of any kind, and I’m just sharing the knowledge I have as a mom. Please take my advice as you would your neighbor’s or the crazy lady at your church! This post is not meant to be medical advice. 

This is the little balls that my son was asking for. We have always used homeopathic arnica montana 30c as our magic growing pains balls. Arnica is said to be the first line of defense against any physical trauma. If you only have one homeopathic remedy on hand, this would be a good one. (30C is fast acting, 30X is what you’d want if you needed to take it often like I did when I had my wisdom teeth out.)

Because this is a very quick remedy to administer, our little balls are the second option we always reach for.

To use a homeopathic remedy, you put the balls, usually 3, into the lid of the container. Try not to touch them with your fingers because the active remedy is on the outside of the ball and easily rubbed off.

Tip the contents of the lid into the child’s mouth, and if they are old enough, instruct them to hold the balls under their tongue. Under the tongue is the fastest way to get the remedy into the bloodstream.

It’s okay to use homeopathy even on children, and growing pains don’t usually begin until at least age 2, so you don’t have to worry about children younger (some homeopathics are fine for kids under 2 but some aren’t recommended, so please do your research for toddlers and babies). If the child does wake up again, you can give a second administration of the remedy as soon as 15 minutes later.

using a hot pad on a child's foot to treat growing pains

Two other homeopathic remedies for growing pains according to Homeopathy for Mommies include Calcarea Phosphoricum and Mercurious Sol, but I have never felt the need to add anything else to my repertoire.

3. Hot Pads or Hot Water Bottles for Immediate Growing Pain Relief

Heat is definitely the fastest and most effective way to immediately ease the ache of growing pains.

It takes a minute or two to prepare either option, which is why we tend to employ the rubbing and homeopathics first.

We have a microwavable bed buddy like this one or this (ours is so old there isn’t quite anything that matches), and we also have a cute teddy bear version sort of like this, which my youngest has aptly-named Hot Pad (we are not the most creative people here!). This is honestly the only reason we use our microwave. Find just about any animal you want here!

You can also make a microwavable hot pad DIY fairly easily by sewing a small cloth bag and filling it with rice. Even a tube sock filled with rice and sewn shut does the trick. Microwave for a minute or two to get to the right temperature. For adults, two minutes, but I find that for children 1 to 1 1/2 minutes is best.

Be ready with a thin sheet or blanket to put between the child’s skin and the hot pad, just in case it’s too toasty for them.

If you don’t have and don’t want a microwave, I would recommend an old fashioned hot water bottle. It still doesn’t take very long to prepare, just as long as it takes for hot water to come out of your tap. Do not use boiling water from the stove in a hot water bottle.

Young girl with growing pains

Electric heating pads are not recommended while sleeping, which defeats the purpose for growing pains!

4. Guided Breathing to Calm Down in the Middle of the Night

Once these three natural remedies have been employed, it’s time to try to help the child sleep again.

I find that encouraging deep breaths is the best magic sauce for sleep after crying. I will hold the child in a hug and demonstrate the deep breaths myself. I find that when you are chest to chest with a child, breathing very deeply and intentionally with your own body feels almost contagious to theirs. I imagine myself filling their body with air and peace with each of my breaths.

Essential oils on a table.

I like to tell my kids, “Breathe your body, nice and slowly,” in a soft, measured voice.

5. Essential Oils, Kid-Safe Growing Pains Blend

Another natural option to defeat growing pains is essential oils. Plant Therapy has a great Growing Pains blend in their Kid-Safe line.

You can purchase this blend either in a pre-diluted roll on bottle, which is great for a direct application to the area in pain, or as an undiluted oil to add to a bath or dilute yourself.

Earthley good night lotion

Sometimes the scent is calming, and the act of applying something directly to the skin can be as well. In our house, we have had the most success with the first three, but I really like having this on hand for those nights when you need a second time around.

6. Magnesium or Pain Relief Lotion

As long as you’re rubbing your child’s legs, they might as well get a little nighttime lotion!

Magnesium may help alleviate growing pains as well as help a child sleep, so you really can’t go wrong with some of Earthley’s Good Night lotion. This might even be a good preventative measure at bedtime.

Where I Buy Magnesium

magnesium lotion shop

From sleep to morning sickness to constipation to muscle soreness, magnesium works wonders!

I found a gentle, yet effective, magnesium lotion that is safe for kids and a favorite of our whole family. One problem with some magnesium in oil form is those products can hurt sensitive skin or be itchy (yikes)! The Magnesium Lotion shop has a wonderful product that doesn’t burn or itch.

It’s so calming, and you can choose from original or lavender scent. It smells so good and has only ingredients you would want (magnesium oil, apricot oil, mango butter, beeswax), and none that you don’t!

MadeOn also makes a pain-relief version of their hard lotion called BeeCool Muscle Balm – BUT this includes menthol, which is really strong and feels so “cool” it’s almost burning, so I wouldn’t recommend for little kids. I would recommend testing a tiny bit while your older child is awake during the day just to make sure it’s not too intense for them at night.

RELATED: Kids & Magnesium

Young girls laying in the lawn.

7. The Power of Positive Thinking Goes a Long Way

When my child with growing pains has calmed down enough to lay down and rest again, I like to leave them with as many positive thoughts as I can. I know their cortisol and adrenaline has been rushing, so anything I can do to calm their mind will help them sleep.

I say things like:

  • It will be so cool to see how much you’ve grown in the morning!
  • I know it hurts, but it’s almost gone…
  • The little balls will do their job, just rest and close your eyes…
  • You’re all taken care of, now you can sleep…
  • I know that was hard, but you were so brave, and you’ll be just fine in the morning.
  • Growing is such hard work, but sleep will make it all better.
  • You played so hard today and had so much fun, your legs are all tired out. But now they can rest and get better…

I know, kind of shady since the pain might not have to do with growing, but it’s such a nice sentiment!

And most importantly, keeping perspective and a calm voice will help you keep your cortisol in check so you too can get back to bed and sleep as quickly as possible!

Hopefully, your hot pad and little balls can do the job so that you don’t have to rub circles on your child’s knees all night long. It’s those nights when I curse the hardwood floor in my youngest’s room, the same floor for which I am so grateful when he has a stomach bug!

Here’s to more minutes in bed for all of us!

Wish You Knew All the Answers to Keep Your Family Healthy?

How about a crash course?

I’d love to send you a 7-day “Quick Start Guide” email mini-course to give you Health Agency! When something goes wrong in your family, YOU can be the agent of healing and not allllllways have to call a doctor for every little thing.

Imagine this email series as a virtual chat over the backyard fence with your own neighbor, a wise older mom who’s raising 4 kids with intention, trying to avoid unnecessary medication and being kind to the earth.

Looking forward to connecting to help you learn EXACTLY what you need to know to stock your natural remedies “medicine cabinet,” deal with normal childhood ailments, and even the dreaded, “What’s that on my skin?” issue! 🙂

Have you employed any natural remedies for your child’s growing pains at night?

Note: Do see a doctor if these pains are accompanied by fever, swelling, redness, loss of appetite or are still present in the morning. More here and here.

Unless otherwise credited, photos are owned by the author or used with a license from Canva or Deposit Photos.

9 thoughts on “7 Fast Acting Natural Remedies for Growing Pains in the Middle of the Night”

  1. My child had growing pains, the remedy I used is giving him a spoon of clarified butter everyday. He never cried of pain. Now I give my kids clarified butter everyday with their meal.

    1. Carolyn @ Kitchen Stewardship

      That’s interesting. I wonder what it is about the clarified butter that makes it helpful. Maybe just the added fat? Thanks for sharing the tip!

  2. Hyland’s homeopathic Leg Cramp PM!!!! My children had horrible night-time growing pains. They would come to my room in the middle of the night weeping with pain. I would massage them and try to soothe them. Then I found the Hylands leg cram pills at Walmart. Cheap, easy to find, and worked instantly! Literally instantly. And because homeopathics don’t just take the pain away, they actually cure the problem, the leg cramps came less often, then finally the cramps went away completely!

  3. One of my twins gets these all the time. Definitely another tool in my mom toolbox is always welcome. They will soon be getting their five year molars and the dreaded baby teeth to big girl teeth switch. Do you recommend the 30X for those or something else?

    1. Hi Allison! So sorry your comment got misplaced for so long. I don’t really know enough about homeopathy to speak on what would be best. This line is all I know: “30C is fast acting, 30X is what you’d want if you needed to take it often like I did when I had my wisdom teeth out.” I bet there are some sites with helpful tips for homeopathy and teething though! 🙂 Katie

  4. Hi Katie, this just happened with my 11 year old a few days ago. Hers is almost always related to a lot of activity. I used to give her ibuprofen but since I have been trying not to do that, I first said, let’s take some magnesium. She was not happy about that and was almost yelling, “that never helps! give me that stuff that works”. Fortunately before I succumbed to getting out the ibuprofen, I remembered Arnica. Gave it to her and 5 or 10 minutes later, she felt so fine. I asked her is it all better or just some better? Do you want another dose? She said she didn’t want another dose, she was fine. Win!

  5. Nell Covington

    I had terrible “growing pains” that lasted into my 30s (and I still get some of them). Turned out that I had severe food allergies. If children are having frequent aches and pains anywhere in their body, I would highly recommend testing for food allergies and sensitivities. I am 67 now and still have pains in my bones and joints because – well – because I have to eat. I have received some help from various alternative treatments. Two of the better ones are LDA (Low Dose Allergen) and NAET (Nambudripad’s Allergy Elimination Technique). Hope this helps.

  6. Hello there,

    This was amazing thanks so much for the information. I was wondering if you have any natural suggestions for joint pains in seniors?

    Thanks so much in advance.

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