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Was It Really Just Growing Pains?

Many of us wonder about the cause of our RA.

I know obsessing over the cause of my lupus and RA is not the answer.

But I’d be lying if I said that I never think about the cause, especially when I read about others with RA taking their children to doctors regarding “growing pains” that they fear may be the beginnings of arthritis in their children.

Growing up, I suffered from “growing pains”.

I had severe knee pain a lot. It was so bad at times that I would wake up crying. My parents would either massage my knees with lotion, give me children’s aspirin, or both.

I know that my parents mentioned the knee pain to doctors, and I know that it was always attributed to “normal growing pains”.

I never thought much of this because “growing pains” seem to be a natural effect of growing.

But what if the supposed “growing pains” weren’t normal? What if they were the first signs of RA, catching us unaware, so many years ago?

There are also a few other pieces of my early medical history, aside from being born almost three months premature, that point to things that only make sense now.

My eye doctor used to ask if I had ever been diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (JRA) because of the quality, or lack thereof, of my eyesight.

When I was about four years old, I developed a very strange rash. Ultimately, it was deemed heat rash. However, I was told that at that point, they suspected that I may have lupus, but I was tested and it turned out to be negative. I only found out recently that lupus was suspected. At the time, I was too young to really know what was going on.

So what does this all mean?

Does this mean that I have really been sick for decades?

Or were these just coincidental occurrences that now seem like a big deal?

When I was first diagnosed, my rheumatologist was stunned that, in the past year, I had suffered with multiple bouts of strep throat and pink eye, and that no doctor seemed concerned about it.

He seemed to think that such infections (and multiple ones, at that), in an otherwise healthy person, suggested that there were issues with my immune system that should have been paid attention to earlier.

But it wasn’t until I had many symptoms all at once that any medical professional really took notice, even when I realized that there was definitely something amiss happening to my body.

At first, these were things that I attributed to being a senior in college, applying to graduate school, etc. It certainly wasn’t at the top of my list to think that I might be suffering from, not just one, but multiple chronic, incurable illnesses.

So six years after diagnosis, while I am not letting it plague me, I do have questions about how my earlier medical history might have contributed to my illnesses today.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • Davee Jones
    4 years ago

    Wow, I’m so happy to have found this site, and especially these articles about childhood illness. Growing up I had strep frequently, scarlet fever, something akin to heat exhaustion if I played too hard, frequent vomiting at night, horrible “growing” pains, something my pediatrician called a histamine imbalance when I would get horrible hives, in junior high my body added heel pain (like heel spurs), then foot pain, wrist pain, neck pain. When I was in college a doctor said I had tendonitis, but, from what, I had no idea. Just this evening, reading these accounts, it’s amazing!! So sorry we all went through it, but, happy someone understands.

  • Leslie Rott moderator author
    4 years ago

    Davee, so sorry to hear your experience with childhood illness, but very glad you have found this article and the site helpful.

  • Khadra Rissler
    4 years ago

    Good article. I imagine a lot of us have similar childhood stories. I know I do, including hospitalizations and daily anti inflammatories starting at age 5. Thanks for sharing!

  • Jenny
    4 years ago

    This hits home with me. I am 27 and was recently diagnosed with RA. I have suffered from pain as long as I can remember and it was always attributed to doing gymnastics growing up. I started at age 3 and was competitive by age 5,so surely it did have some effect on my body. But no one else seemed to have the same amount of pain that I did. I too had terrible knee pain and was diagnosed with Chondromalacia in both knees at age 13. But I was otherwise young and healthy so no one took my pain seriously. I also seem to have a weakened immune system, lots of colds, infections, etc. as a child and even now. Looking back I feel that maybe someone should have looked further into what was going on. But at least I know now.

  • Patty
    5 years ago

    You sound so much like me as a child–the rashes, the frequent strep, the growing pains…
    I had knee pain for years, tho I was skinny and active, but when I was in my 30s I BEGGED my GP to send me to someone who could help me, because my husband had had to rush me to the ER twice in the middle of the night, as we both thought I was having a heart attack or stroke. My right arm, the first time, and then the left….astounding pain, sweat dripping down my face, blood pressure outta control! The first time, they pretty much accused my husband of abusing me, the second time they said I was “drug seeking,” even though I hadn’t asked for drugs at all! STILL, my GP would not refer me to a rheumatologist!
    It was several years later that my husband got great PPO insurance and I went to a rheumy, (I had finally gotten a computer, and looked up the symptoms) and he immediately said: ” Ma’am, you have a serious disease, why did you not seek treatment earlier?” I actually burst into tears–not of sadness, but of joy! FINALLY, someone BELIEVED me!

  • Leslie Rott moderator author
    5 years ago

    Sorry to hear about all that, but you make me feel like I’m not alone in this.

  • Damian
    5 years ago

    Hi Leslie,I too had ‘growing pains’ for 2 yrs when I was 11-13yrs. I was hospitalized….then sent to a shrink….


  • Leslie Rott moderator author
    5 years ago

    Wow! That’s crazy. When did you receive an RA diagnosis?

  • carol white
    5 years ago

    I had similar experiences as a child– mysterious rashes, severe “growing pains”, scarlet fever, fatigue, frequent sickness. Looking back, with the knowledge of what I’ve learned of RA, I wonder if these too, were early symptoms that were misdiagnosed as separate events.

  • Leslie Rott moderator author
    5 years ago

    Sorry to hear that you experienced this, but thanks for making me feel like I am not alone.

  • Kelly Mack moderator
    5 years ago

    Leslie, really good questions and post. I’m of the believe that all of our health issues are somehow connected (or maybe most of them) and that we observe a lot more and experience warning signs before they are recognized officially by the professionals. It’s kind of like a detective picking up clues, but it takes a while to put the entire mystery together. Thanks for bringing this up.

  • Leslie Rott moderator author
    5 years ago

    It is detective work.

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