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Diagnosing the Problem: Heel Pain in Children

Heel pain in a child may be linked to a growth spurt. In other words: Growing pains may be real!

A child with heel pain or difficulty walking may have Severs Disease/Calcaneal Apophysitis. In this condition, the heel bone grows faster than the surrounding tendons and muscles during a growth spurt, and they are overstretched.

In addition, there are biomechanical factors which can trigger the condition.  In feet which hyperpronate or flatten out too much or in children with tight achilles tendons, there can be a torque applied to the growth plate.  The added stresses of sports activities or extra weight often result in an injury to the growth plate area.

You may observe other symptoms of this condition including:

  • Heel pain that eases with rest, and is worse after athletic activities like jumping or running
  • Redness or swelling in the heel
  • Tenderness when the back of the heel is squeezed. A feeling of tightness may also be there
  • Limping
  • Inability to walk unless on tip toe

Sever’s disease can be found at different ages by gender because of the different ages of girls’ and boys’ growth spurts. For example, boys usually experience growth spurts at ages 10 to 15, so that’s when the risk of Sever’s disease is greatest. Girls, whose growth spurts are earlier between ages 8 and 13, may have Sever’s disease at those earlier ages.

Preventing Sever’s Disease

It is possible to prevent this painful condition with some common sense steps that are good tips for children of any age:

  • Provide them with supportive, well-fitting and well-cushioned shoes.
  • Encourage your child to stretch the hamstring, heel and calf gently and regularly.
  • Keep your child at a healthy weight to minimize heel pressure.
  • Limit running and jumping on surfaces that are inflexible and hard.
  • Watch your child to prevent over-training, especially if the heels are painful.

Watch for the signs of Sever’s disease if your child participates in sports like basketball, soccer, football or gymnastics. Cleats are particularly hard and rigid and can aggravate the problem.

The good news? The risk of Sever’s disease evaporates when the child is fully grown. Then the muscles and tendons will have grown to match the growth of the heel bone.

We Can Treat Sever’s Disease To Eliminate Heel Pain

If your child is experiencing heel pain, please come in to The New Jersey Children’s Foot Heath Institute at Clark Podiatry Center for an evaluation. We will recommend resting the foot and taking a break from all sports. Our other treatments include:

  • Icing the inflamed area several times a day.
  • Taking ibuprofen or naproxen to relieve pain and inflammation, with your doctor’s approval.
  • Physical therapy and gentle stretching.
  • Adding heel cups or orthotics to reduce stress on the heel.
  • Wearing a cast or walking boot if these methods don’t bring relief.

We will counsel you and your child on the best way to return to sports and other activities gradually.

Don’t Wait To Resolve Your Child’s Heel Pain

Dr. Brandon Macy, board certified podiatrist has helped relieve the heel pain of many children and teens so they can return to normal activities. Please contact us for an appointment in our Clark office at 732-382-3470 or use the contact information at the website. Call us today to start your child down the path to recovery from Sever’s disease.