Is my child having growing pains or is this something more serious?
Most parents will at one time or another have to answer this question, and often, it comes in the middle of the night when your child wakes you crying due to leg pains or a muscle spasm (“Charlie horse”). In the heat of the moment, comfort your child, massage, heat, and love will usually help the acute crisis and they will feel better and get back to sleep. If there is no fever, there was no injury, there is no swelling and no hot joint or hot area representing an infection, then you do not need to call the doctor in the middle of the night or rush to the emergency room.
Determine the exact location of their pain or discomfort and have them show you rather than asking is it here or there? Yes or No questions will give you a 50/50 chance of getting that response and it may not be accurate.
Growing pains are almost never a bone pain. Your child may be growing (of course they grow most the first couple years and then again at puberty), but children are always growing until after puberty. The discomfort that most often wakes a child seems to be muscle in origin most of the time and sometimes it can be a joint. If they had a more active day than usual, it may just be from that. There may be an injury you were not aware of, and I wonder at times, if dehydration (not getting enough fluids) or imbalances of electrolytes can be a set-up for muscle aches, cramps, and growing pains.
Have your child drink more fluids, consider a mineral supplement Calcium and magnesium are involved in the muscle contraction and the balance of sodium and potassium is important for cell function and integrity.
Your best clue that this is not something serious is that it comes and goes, tends not to happen during the day and it is not even always in the same place. Now, a pain that is there day and night, and always in the same place, deserves a visit to the doctor.