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Sleep Med. 2013 Dec;14(12):1247-52. doi: 10.1016/j.sleep.2013.07.013. Epub 2013 Sep 26.

Restless legs syndrome (Willis-Ekbom disease) and growing pains: are they the same thing? A side-by-side comparison of the diagnostic criteria for both and recommendations for future research.

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  • 1Department of Neurology, Sleep Division, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Nashville, TN, USA. Electronic address: Arthur.Walters@Vanderbilt.edu.


There has been no previous side-by-side comparison of the diagnostic criteria for restless legs syndrome (RLS) (Willis-Ekbom disease) and growing pains. In our review, we explore this comparison emphasizing overlaps and disconnects, summarize recent literature exploring the relationship between the 2 entities, and make suggestions for future research. There is considerable overlap in the diagnostic criteria for childhood RLS and growing pains. The literature also indicates that RLS and growing pains more commonly occur together than one would expect based on chance alone, and the family histories of RLS and growing pains often are overlapping. Leg rubbing to obtain relief from leg discomfort is common to both disorders, though walking to obtain relief seems unique to RLS. Childhood RLS also has been reported to be painful in up to 45% of cases. The development of standard diagnostic criteria is necessary to move forward in the field of growing pains research. A quantitative and validated rating scale for growing pains severity already exists. Because of the clinical and genetic similarity between RLS and growing pains, studies that parallel those previously performed in RLS patients are recommended for growing pains patients. For example, a genome wide association study in growing pains patients of all possible genes with particular attention to those identified as related to RLS and a therapeutic trial of medications known to be effective in RLS would be welcome. Abnormalities in vitamin D metabolism also may be common to both disorders.

Copyright © 2013 The Authors. Published by Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.


Anticonvulsants; Childhood; Dopamine; Genetics; Growing pains; Pediatrics; Restless legs syndrome; Vitamin D

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