Heel Pain Issues in Children

Children, like adults, can suffer from Achilles stiffness, Achilles tendonitis, and plantar fasciitis. The Heel Pain Center of Tampa Bay can help your child with these issues, in addition to those mentioned below:

  • Sever’s Disease
  • Pediatric Flatfoot
  • Growth Plate Injuries
  • Growing Pains

Read on to learn more about each condition.

Sever’s Disease

Sever’s disease (also called calcaneal apophysitis) is a painful bone disorder that results from the inflammation of the growth plate in the heel. The growth plate is an area at the end of a developing bone where cartilage cells change over time into bone cells. As this occurs, the growth plates expand and unite. This is how bones grow.

Sever’s disease is a very common cause of heel pain in kids, especially those who are physically active. It usually occurs during early puberty when kids grown most rapidly. Sever's disease rarely occurs in older teens because the back of the heel usually finishes growing by the age of 15, when the growth plate hardens and the growing bones fuse together into mature bone.

Read more about Sever’s disease, including symptoms, causes, and treatments.

Pediatric Flatfoot

Pediatric flatfoot refers to a partial or total collapse of the arch. Flatfoot can be apparent at birth, or it may not show up until years later. Most children with flatfoot have no symptoms, but some have one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Pain, tenderness or cramping in the foot, leg and knee
  • Outward tilting of the heel
  • Awkwardness or changes in walking
  • Difficulty with shoes
  • Reduced energy when participating in physical activities
  • Voluntary withdrawal from physical activities

If the child is experiencing symptoms, treatment is required. Your podiatrist may opt for one or more of the following approaches:

  • Activity modifications: Temporarily decrease the child’s activities that bring pain and avoid prolonged walking or standing.
  • Orthotic devices: Custom orthotic devices can be offered that fit inside the shoe to support the structure of the foot and improve function.
  • Physical therapy: Stretching exercises (supervised by the foot and ankle surgeon or a physical therapist) provide relief in some cases of flatfoot.
  • Medications: Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, may be recommended to help reduce pain and inflammation.
  • Shoe modifications: Provide the child with the proper footwear that will support the foot and help ease symptoms.
  • Surgery: In some cases, surgery is necessary to relieve the symptoms and improve foot function. The surgical procedure or combination of procedures selected for your child will depend on his or her type of flatfoot and degree of deformity.

Growth Plate Injuries

Growth plates are the areas of growing tissue near the ends of the long bones in the legs and arms in kids and adolescents. When a child’s skeleton has reached maturity, the growth plates harden and form complete bones. Before this growth is complete, the growth plates are at risk for fractures. An adult whose bones have finished growing might simply pull a muscle or a tendon after a fall, but that same could injure the growth plate of a developing child.

Most of the time, growth plate injuries happen from falling or twisting. Contact sports, like football or basketball, or fast-moving activities like skiing, skateboarding, sledding, or biking, are common causes. Injuries can also happen from activities that require repetitive training, like gymnastics, track and field, or pitching a baseball.

Treatment for growth plate injuries first involves resting and not bearing weight on the affected limb. Often, this means wearing a cast, splint, or brace over the area to prevent movement. If bones are out of place, they may have to be put back into place through a gentle procedure called a reduction. Afterward, the child may wear a cast, splint, or brace to make sure the bones don't move out of place.

Growing Pains

When a child complains of soreness in the legs it is frequently said that they are having "growing pains". On the contrary, the act of growing is not painful at all. "Growing pains" indicate that something abnormal is occurring. The muscles in the lower leg control the function of the foot. When the feet are not functioning properly it causes the muscles in the legs to fatigue. This fatigue results in soreness or cramping in the muscles of the legs. This may manifest itself early in development of the child. A newly walking child may prefer to be carried or held instead of exploring on their own. Youngsters may protest walking, tiring easily.

Treatment consists of using custom molded inserts for the shoes (orthotics) to correct the underlying abnormal foot function. This in turn reduces the stress experienced in the leg muscles and will ease or eliminate the soreness. The results can be quite dramatic with a rapid improvement in the child's symptoms.