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Are Growing Pains in Children Linked to Migraines?

A young girl covering her face with her hands.
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New research published in Headache reveals that, in children and adolescents, pain in the lower limbs—what are often called “growing pains” by clinicians and are commonly attributed to rapid growth—may indicate the presence or risk of migraines.

The study included 100 children and adolescents born to mothers with migraines seen at a headache clinic, with half of the youth experiencing growing pains.

“In families of children with growing pains, there is an increased prevalence of other pain syndromes, especially migraine among parents,” the authors wrote. “On the other hand, children with migraine have a higher prevalence of growing pains, suggesting a common pathogenesis; therefore, we hypothesized that growing pains in children are a precursor or comorbidity with migraine.”

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After 5 years of follow-up, 78 patients completed the study, of which 42 were from the group that experienced growing pains and 36 were from the control group. Headaches occurred in 76% of participants who had growing pains and in 22% of controls. Growing pains persisted in 14% of participants who had growing pains at the start of the study and appeared in 39% of participants who were previously asymptomatic.

“Pain in the lower limbs of children and adolescents... may reflect a precursor or comorbidity with migraine,” the authors concluded.

Reference: Silva-Néto RP, Soares A de A, Souza WP de O, Krymchantowski AG, Jevoux C, Krymchantowski A. “Growing pains” in children and adolescents as an early symptom of migraine: A prospective study. Headache: The Journal of Head and Face Pain. 2023;n/a(n/a). doi: 10.1111/head.14608

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