Think Heel Pain in Kids is Normal, Think Again

Kids love to play, whether that be indoors or outdoors. They often play sports year round. As many parents realize, their kids seldom slow down and often it is up to the adult to take notice if something is wrong with their child’s feet. Heel pain is not normal in a child and should not be assumed to be “growing pains.” Initial heel pain in a child can be a warning sign to a more serious foot problem.

Calcaneal Apophysitis (Sever’s Disease) affects open growth plates of the calcaneus (heel bone) resulting in inflammation at the growth plate that causes pain. Kids age 6-14 are especially vulnerable due to their feet developing at a rate faster than their bodies can keep up. As a result, overuse injuries due to repeated stress and strain are very common and present as heel pain.

A proper podiatric physical exam is critical to treating kid’s heel pain. Often times an x-ray or other advanced imaging modalities can be used to confirm the diagnosis. Stress fractures, plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendonitis and ankle sprains can mimic the symptoms of Calcaneal Apophysitis. Mis-diagnosing heel pain or delays in treatment can affect the growth plate and have long lasting effects throughout your child’s life.

Treatment for Calcaneal Apophysitis is fairly conservative depending on the degree of severity. Mild to moderate presentations can be treated with inserts and a heel cup to support the foot and absorb heel contact. A strict stretching program along with ice and anti-inflammatories is very beneficial. Lastly, a temporary reduction in physical activities is warranted. Severe cases usually require immobilization of the foot in a walking boot with a heel lift and heel cup to alleviate pressure of the heel area. Once again ice and anti-inflammatories are key, along with an extensive stretching program. Ultimately, a complete halt of all physical activities may be required, to allow the foot to heal properly.

Pediatric heel pain is very common, but its short and long term effects can be reduced by seeking quick and proper treatment. When starting new physical activities it is essential to properly stretch and go through a warm-up period. Supportive shoes and limiting use of hard spikes can reduce stress and strain on the foot. The most important thing a parent can do, if their child starts experiencing heel pain, is to seek an evaluation from a trained foot specialist ASAP to avoid long lasting effects. We at Toe-Tal Foot & Ankle Care believe “Correction is a poor substitute for prevention” and we are here to help. Please don’t hesitate to call us at (817) 656-0303 or for more info go to our website at www.toetalfootandanklecare.com.

Watauga Podiatrist
Written by Dr. Daniel Cairns
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