Whether you have an Edison Eagle gearing up for the fall sports season, a future track star in the making, or simply a kid who just can’t stay in one spot for long, you know how important being active is to them.
That’s why, when heel pain in children strikes, it can be quite a concern.
It’s not just a concern for you—although we of course understand it is. This is your child, after all. You want to see them happy and enjoying what they love without having to wince when their feet hit the ground.
But if it’s a concern to you, think how much it may be for your child. Pain is putting a crimp in their performance, but the only thing that might feel worse is being asked to step out of their game for a while! They might try to play through the pain or hide the fact it’s happening.
There are several potential causes of heel pain, but among the most common in active children ages 8-14 is Sever’s disease. It’s a part of growing up for many children, but still something that requires proper care.
What is Sever’s Disease?
First of all, the name is a bit misleading. Sorry about that.
Sever’s disease isn’t a “disease” in the way people popularly think of the flu and measles as diseases. You don’t “get it” from someone else. It is more like an injury. However, its more medical name, calcaneal apophysitis, just doesn’t have that same ring to it.
Children go through quite a bit of growth through adolescence, and their heels are no exception. Each heel bone (calcaneus) has a “growth plate” where new bone is created, adding to its size.
The growth plate can be more vulnerable during this time than standard bone, however. In sports that involve the heel hitting the ground a lot—such as running, football, basketball, and tennis—with repeated impact can cause the area to become strained and inflamed.
Additional factors can also contribute to the heel pain a child with Sever’s disease may feel:
- A tight Achilles tendon will pull against the heel bone and, in turn, the growth plate. This consistent stress can cause irritation.
- Gait abnormalities can throw the distribution of weight along the foot out of alignment, providing additional pressure to the heel area. Children who have flat feet, high arches, or overpronate (feet rolling too far inward when walking) are more likely to develop Sever’s disease.
- Excess weight can also add excessive stress to the foot and make heel pain worse.
When Should I Take My Child to the Podiatrist?
Heel pain that persists for more than a few days in anyoneis not normal. If your child has been complaining of pain in their heel—back or bottom—it’s time to make a call.
There are cases when a child might be afraid of admitting there’s something going on, so it’s important to look for other signs of heel trouble. If your child is limping, walking on their toes more often, seeming to be going through their activities more gingerly or saying they’re tired and wanting to end it sooner than usual, there might be a problem.
Roughly more than half of cases will involve pain in both heels, but pain can also be present in just one.
In cases of Sever’s disease, lightly squeezing the sides of the heel can cause additional pain. Please be gentle and considerate to your child if you wish to attempt this test.
What Does Sever’s Disease Mean for My Child?
The good news is that Sever’s disease is relatively easy to treat. The bad news is that it may very likely include some reduced activity.
First, it must be determined that Sever’s disease is the actual cause of the heel pain. At our office, this includes a physical examination and a review of your child’s medical history. An X-ray or other imaging test might be performed to rule out other causes such as stress fractures.
If Sever’s disease is diagnosed, we may need to address some of the factors causing it. This might mean a need for better shoes, or the use of orthotics to redistribute weight properly over the foot.
To treat the condition itself, there will need to be a recovery period. Unfortunately, in most cases this does mean rest and/or reduced activity for your child—from 2-8 weeks in most cases.
While this might cause some stress, in many cases your child does not have to stop being active altogether! This can be a good time to cross-train in other ways that do not have high impact on the feet, such as swimming or cycling. We can also recommend stretches and exercises that can help add strength and flexibility to the Achilles tendons, reducing their strain on the heels.
The Best Care for Feet and Ankles at Any Age
We know that heel pain is never convenient to life. That’s why at Ankle & Foot Specialist of N.J. we strive for the most effective treatments that not only relieve the condition, but get people back to their daily lives in the best ways and as quickly as possible!
This goes double for kids. Recovery from Sever’s disease may take a bit of time, but it will be well worth it to get back to activity without further pain or discomfort.
Our offices are ready to serve you. Please fill out our online contact form or call us at either of the numbers below to schedule an appointment:
Edison – (908) 222-8980
Warren – (732) 356-FOOT (3668)