Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Growing Pains? What can be done?

One morning towards the end of the school year my daughter called to me from her bed when she woke up.  She said “Daddy, my legs hurt so much, I can’t even stand.”   My heart broke seeing my daughter in so much pain.  Watching her trying to walk was even more painful for me.
When she could walk, she could only walk on tippy toes, because she could not put her feet flat on the floor.  She would limp around the house. Her only comfortable positions were sitting or laying down.
When I tried to see what was wrong, by feeling her calf and leg muscles, I was shocked.  Her calf muscles felt like rock and when I would feel them, my daughter would scream in pain.
At first I had her take hot baths and soak her legs.  I hoped that would help her at least be able to stand more comfortably.  This was of some help, but not much.  Then I asked her to start stretching the muscles after the bath, and this too helped some.
I knew it was time to really take a more hands on approach to her problem.  After explaining to her that it would hurt some, we needed to get those muscles to relax or she would be in for some rough times ahead.
My daughter’s pain was not as new to me, as it was to her.  When I was her age or slightly older, I had growing pains as well, although in a slightly different place.  It was so severe I needed crutches for 6 months.   I was diagnosed with Osgood Schlatter’s Disease.  This hard to pronounce “disease” is what happens when the upper leg bone (the femur) grows too fast for the muscles to keep pace.  The tendon starts to tear off the tibia where it attaches after passing over the knee.
For my daughter, I did not want her to have so much pain and discomfort for so long.  So after trying the baths, the stretching and not getting the results I had hoped for, I tried massage.  I would have her soak in the tub to warm and soften the muscles and then I would massage her calves.  The massage was uncomfortable for her and even painful because the muscle was so tight.  Still it provided some temporary relief.  She however, still could not walk well.
I moved on to the next tool in my toolbox – electro-stimulation acupuncture.  This must sound scary, even Frankenstein like, doesn’t it?  Well, this is just a fancy way to say, that I put needles into the tight muscles and then send a small electric current to the muscle.  This causes the muscle to contract and relax many times.  This tires the muscle and a tired muscle does not want to be in spasm.
I tell my patients that it is similar to opening and closing your fist many times.  Eventually, your fist will tire and you won’t want to open and close it any more.
This treatment along with massage did the trick.  We did it 3 or 4 times over the course of a week.  My daughter was thrilled to be able to walk normally again as she wanted to be able to go on her end of the year school trips.
Today she went to the doctor for her annual check-up and it turns out that she grew 3 inches since last year.  She is now 5’ 7” tall and 12 years old.  She likes her height, but she hopes she stops growing soon or at least slows down.  Us too, we can’t keep her in shoes.

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