BACKGROUND: Leg pain in children, described as growing pains, is a frequent clinical presentation seen by an array of health care professionals. Described since 1823, growing pains continues to puzzle practitioners, yet diagnostic criteria and evidence based treatment is available. METHODS: The medical literature has been searched exhaustively to access all articles (English language) pertaining to leg pains in children which are ascribed to being 'growing pains'. RESULTS: The literature, whilst plentiful in quantity and spanning two centuries, is generally replete with reiterated opinion and anecdote and lacking in scientific rigour. The author searched 45 articles for relevance, determined according to title, abstract and full text, resulting in a yield of 22 original studies and 23 review articles. From the original studies, one small (non-blinded) randomised controlled trial that focused on GP treatment with leg muscle stretching was found. Nine prevalence studies were found revealing disparate estimates. Ten cohort (some case-controlled) studies, which investigated pain attribute differences in affected versus unaffected groups, were found. One series of single case experiment designs and one animal model study were found. CONCLUSION: Growing pains is prevalent in young children, presents frequently in the health care setting where it is poorly managed and is continuing to be researched. A common childhood complaint, growing pains needs to be acknowledged and better managed in the contemporary medical setting.