Heel pain in kids is common—but it’s not something they’ll just outgrow. And it’s not a normal part of getting older. Instead, there are several conditions that could cause children’s heel pain, the most common being Sever’s disease, Achilles tendinitis, or a heel fracture. Today, we’ll examine each one closely, to help you recognize the signs and symptoms of each condition, so you can determine when to take your child to the doctor, and when you should be concerned about heel pain.
Heel Pain in Kids: Sever’s Disease
Heel pain in kids between the ages of seven and 15—especially athletes—is most likely caused by Sever’s disease. Also known as Calcaneal Apophysitis, this condition develops during kids’ rapid growth spurts. At this time, the heel bone grows quickly, and that can stretch and inflame the surrounding tendons and muscles. For girls, this growth spurt usually occurs between the ages of 7 and 13; boys are typically at greatest risk between the ages of 10 and 15. But even children as young as five can develop Sever’s disease, especially if they are very active.
Sever’s Disease Symptoms
If heel pain in kids is caused by Sever’s disease, they’ll complain of pain at the back, inside or outside of their heel. The pain will be worse during active periods, especially when playing sports, but better during times of rest. If you squeeze the side of your child’s heel bone, the pain will be sharp. And symptoms can impact one or both heels, sometimes badly enough to leave your child limping.
Other Causes of Heel Pain in Kids: Achilles tendinitis, Fractures and Arthritis
While most cases of heel pain in children are the result of Sever’s disease, Achilles tendinitis, broken bones and even arthritis could be to blame. That’s why it’s important to make an appointment in the office as soon as your child complains of heel pain: during your visit, Dr. Cowans can determine the cause of your child’s discomfort, and begin appropriate treatment.
What is Achilles tendinitis?
Achilles tendinitis develops when inflammation sets in at the spot where your child’s tendon attaches to the heel. This type of injury is also common in active kids, especially when they suddenly increase their activity levels. The best treatment for Achilles tendinitis is rest, ice and elevation. Your child may also need orthotic devices or special wrapping procedures to take pressure off the area once it’s possible to return to former activity levels.
Diagnosing and Treating Sever’s Disease in Powder Springs, GA
If Dr. Cowans suspects that your child has Sever’s disease, he’ll take a complete medical history, including all youth sports activities. Next will come a physical exam to determine the type and location of heel pain in kids. Finally, he may order x-rays to rule out injuries and to help make a definitive diagnosis.
How Do you Treat Heel Pain in Children Caused by Sever’s disease?
Once we diagnose Sever’s disease, we’ll come up with a treatment plan. What that plan looks like will depend on whether your child’s heel pain is chronic, or this is a first time—acute—experience.
If this is the first time your child is experiencing the heel pain of Sever’s disease, treatment will likely start with a week’s worth of reduced activity, during which he or she may ice the affected heel. Anti-inflammatories may also help improve the pain and inflammation during this period. For some children, this break may be enough to resolve their pain and inflammation. Afterwards, they can gradually return to their normal activities, taking precautions to avoid reinjury. These will likely include a change to more supportive athletic shoes, along with the addition of orthotics if additional support is necessary.
If your child’s heel pain keeps coming back, a custom orthotic will certainly be helpful. If the pain is severe, the foot may need to be completely immobilized for several weeks, which could mean putting your child in a walking boot during this recovery period. Even if a boot isn’t necessary, we may recommend wrapping the affected foot, or wearing compression stockings, in order to reduce the pain and swelling. We may also recommend a period of physical therapy, since certain strengthening and stretching exercises may also help speed up your child’s recovery.
Will Sever's disease go away on it’s own?
As we said from the start, foot or heel pain in kids isn’t normal—and it’s not something you should wait for them to outgrow. You see, with proper care, we can usually make the symptoms of Sever's disease go away quickly, without causing lasting concerns for your child’s health or mobility. Afterwards, most children are able to resume all their favorite activities—without pain.
Now, even if your child’s Sever’s disease symptoms resolve on their own, avoiding treatment can cause serious health concerns later in life. At worst, lack of treatment can lead to heel bone fractures. But even without that worst-case scenario, delaying or avoiding treatment can leave your child dealing with unnecessary pain.
Heel Pain in Kids: Preventing Problems from Returning
Once we’ve resolved heel pain in children, we can work together to keep the Sever's disease symptoms from returning. Here’s how you can keep Sever’s disease from becoming a chronic problem for your child:
1. Make sure that kids wear athletic shoe that fit well and have lots of padding in the soles
2. Keep high heels or heavy foot gear off your kids’ feet
3. Make sure that children stretch before and after any kind of physical activity, especially sports
4. After physical activity, ice your child’s heel for between 15 and 20 minutes (no longer), placing a towel between the ice and the foot of the skin to avoid damage from the cold.
5. If your child is prescribed orthotics, make sure they’re worn consistently
6. If kids are carrying any extra weight, take careful measures to reach a healthy goal weight
Heel Pain in Kids: Help in Powder Springs, GA
Whether Sever’s disease, tendinitis or acute injuries are causing your child’s heel pain, we’re here to help! Discomfort is not a normal part of getting older, and it’s not something you should try to have them wait out or outgrow. Instead, at the first sign of discomfort, reach out to our office. We’ll get you to see Dr. Cowans quickly, so your child can get back to playing comfortably—as soon as possible!