Osteopath Dr Phil's Tips

Growing Pains & Adolescence

Apart from the very early months of life, the teenage “growth spurt” may be our most dramatic personal transformation. Body, hormones, emotions, thought patterns and sense of identity are all in a state of turbulence.

Sleep and Appetite

Once the growth and gender hormones kick in the needs for food and sleep may become altered quite radically. Fats, sugars and carbohydrates can become urgent desires to the point of craving; the need for rest alternating between torpor and agitation quite unpredictably.

Self and Society

It is often very tough coming to terms with the new feelings of gender identity and the emergence of strong sexual urges. There is also a longish phase of gathering together the renewed sense of self: beginning to move into a much broader adult community. Here the balance of inflating egoism, idealism, altruism and the fear of failure may all be oscillating wildly. It’s no wonder your typical teenager needs to retreat into their cave and molder away for days and days. A few close peers may help ... but unfortunately the family may not be much use. They are actually much needed as a secure base; but otherwise much ignored. Conflicts emerge (see later). With all this chaos, including meeting and mating troubles it’s no surprise that frustrations are intense.

Bodies and Tissues

Body types and tissues tend to evolve rapidly. Whether stocky and short or lanky and long, the actual tissues and joints can be very floppy and loose or tight, hard and restricted: often a mixture of both! A typical phase of coltish clumsiness is common. Acute sensitivity emerges about being very short or very tall, about body weight and proportions, about breasts and periods, about hair, smells, acne, dress and any personal comments from others.

Typical Aches

Good body therapy can be hugely helpful for the distressed growing body. spinal aches are very common when deep tensions are fighting demands of lengthening and movement, or postural slump and exhaustion. At it’s worst this seems to squash the growth plates of the vertebrae and partly collapse the spinal curves (Schuermann’s). For many the hamstrings seem to lengthen much slower than the leg bones, giving more trouble. The attachment below the kneecap may become pulled and inflamed (Osgood Schlatter’s). This can even prevent vigorous sport for a year or two. Similar troubles happen in wrists and feet: but most will do very well with skilled hands-on work.

High Impact Sports

The changing body is highly vulnerable to impact injury: specially to vertebral and other joints. The spinal units in hospital are full of road accidents, falls off horses, bikes and dumped surfers. High up are also the catastrophies from rugby and gymnastics: with the surgeons kept busy fixing knees and shoulders wrecked by poor selection, training and misuse.

Hi Impact Comments

Teens can suffer badly when a father teases his now plump daughter; a mother shows disapointment when her daughter loses the spider-like emaciation of the classical ballerina, alpha male hierarchical put-downs can easily collapse the burgeoning male’s vulnerable selfness. Teachers are also crucial to this, sarcasm can sometimes cripple lastingly.


On the plus side, the adolescent’s high state of flux means that healing transformations can happen very quickly. Sometimes they only need a small nudge in the right direction to rush into health quite dramatically.

Conflict and Troubles

Poo happens. And whether it is parents, school or the adolescent sufferers themselves some very good coaching and mentoring can be immensely helpful if you can find it.