The title of a recent article from Reuters Health caught my eye – “Kids outgrow growing pains: study.” Since I frequently hear from adults diagnosed with fibromyalgia who say they had growing pains as children, I was anxious to learn more about this study.
As I looked further into the details of the study, published in The Journal of Pediatrics, several things disturbed me.
- The article reported that “most youngsters” outgrow growing pains. In fact, of 35 children studied, 18 (51%) no longer had pain five years later. While 51% technically qualifies as “most,” it's hardly a resounding majority.
- The study stated, “No patient developed fibromyalgia.” However, the five-year study ended when the children were about 13. Since FM is often not diagnosed until adolescence, or more commonly, adulthood, a study that ends when children are 13 can hardly be considered the final word as to whether growing pains might be a precursor to FM.
- The study concluded, “We confirm that growing pains has a benign prognosis and probably represents a pain amplification syndrome of early childhood.” I think that labeling all growing pains as having a benign prognosis based on one very small study – where 49% of the participants continued to have some level of pain – does a disservice to children in pain, who already have a hard time being taken seriously.
- I wonder whether the lead scientist in this study, Dr. Yosef Uziel, may have some degree of bias in his approach to growing pains. In a 2008 article, “Growing Pains in Children,” he said, “There is also an associated familial and patient behavioral element. Treatment is conservative with patient and parental education on the benign outcome of these pains the most important element, in order to decrease anxiety.” I don't want to put words into his mouth, but to me this sounds like a fancy way of saying that kids and their parents are over-reacting and that if doctors can just convince them that it is nothing serious, they will be fine. In addition, Dr. Uziel told Reuters that in his experience he had not seen any cases of growing pains develop into a more serious pain syndrome. I can't help but wonder if he might be letting his personal experience and opinion color his research conclusions.
At the very least, the subject of growing pains and their possible connection to fibromyalgia needs to be studied in more depth. I haven't been able to find any research that looks into adults with FM who experienced growing pains as children.
I did find an interesting survey that was conducted by AFFTER (Advocates for Fibromyalgia Funding, Treatment, Education and Research) in 2007. Adults with FM were asked to recall symptoms they had experienced in childhood. Following are the results: