When we are born we're usually around 50cm long. Once we're fully grown we have added another 115cm to that. It all seems normal and usually it happens without any issues, however there are very complicated processes at work that are influenced by so many factors. To name a few: hormones, exercise level, diet, and different pathologies.
At the end of your bone there is a disc like structure of non-ossified cartilage, this is the growth plate. By multiplying the cartilage the cells help expand the bone and this is how people grow. When we age, eventually all the cartilage ossifies and we stop growing.
Even though the growth plates have been ossified in adults this does not mean the bones are not operational. Bone is being broken down and relayed constantly throughout one’s life. The production of bone is being stimulated by Oestrogen a hormone this is the reason why the bone strength deteriorates in post-menopausal women.
The growth hormone is important for development and is made in the pituitary gland within your brain. The hormone causes longitudinal growth by stimulating the growth plates. The release of this hormone into your blood stream isn't a continuous occurrence but more a collection of bursts. These bursts happen at night two hours after you've fallen asleep. Besides sleeping, physical exercise has a positive effect on the release of this hormone as well.
In addition to the growth hormone, the Thyroid hormones and sex steroids (testosterone and oestrogen) play an important part in an individual’s growth. Sex steroids cause rapid growth during puberty, up to 12cm a year! But even in adults the growth hormone has a number of important functions. It’s important to the musculoskeletal system, bone density, metabolism and our wellbeing.
What are growing pains?
Growing pains are pains felt by children and adolescents at night on both sides of their bodies.
There are many different theories on what exactly causes growing pains. One such theory suggests that the pain is caused by the stretching of the muscles and tendons as the bones grow. As discussed previously we don't grow the same amount from one day to the next so the pain can be present during one night and gone the next. It is nothing to be concerned about, as a parent you can try to massage the area. If the pain persists however refer to a healthcare practitioner.
Chiropractic care and developing children
As you'll understand by now, there is a lot happening in your body during your youth. And we've only been discussing bone growth. Your muscles need to elongate at the same speed and that can lead to diminished coordination. This is mostly seen during puberty as this is when you grow the most. It is important for youngsters to be exercising lots, this best enables the body to adapt to all the changes, what is more you are training your motor skills.
It is important however that you exercise and move in the correct way, using the correct motor patterns. This is where chiropractic can help. By making sure that the joints can move freely, the muscles can function better, which, can optimise growth and prevent injuries. By treating problem areas, addressing faulty movement patterns and explaining certain preventative measures, chiropractic endeavours to help our youths move without pain and diminish the risk of injury so that playing sports remains fun!