Youth sports are a great way for your kids to develop physical and emotional skills while learning how to work with others toward a common goal. They are also a great way to encourage activity that reduces their screen time and helps their bodies stay healthy and fit. Playing doesn’t come without risks, however, especially if your child focuses on one sport throughout the year. Heel pain in kids is a common occurrence in those who are very active during a growth spurt. Here’s why:
Pushing and Pulling
When kids are growing, bones, tendons and muscles may develop at different rates. When the bones grow more quickly, they pull the tendons and muscles taut and put a lot of stress on them. These soft tissues return that stress by pulling against the bone where they are attached. This often occurs with the heel bone (calcaneus) and the Achilles tendon in the back of the ankle. The constant tension can cause the growth plate (soft cartilage that expands and hardens) in the heel to become inflamed and painful—a condition called Sever’s disease.
If your child is pushing his or her body during a sports game, it multiplies the effect. Most sports involve a lot of movement, and each time your child takes a step, runs, or jumps, these tendons are pulled tight. With practice every day, he or she may not have enough time to rest and heal before stressing the tendons again. His or her pronation pattern, arch type and weight can be factors as well.
The constant repetitive movement can inflict damage on other tissues, too. Overuse injuries such as Achilles bursitis or tendinitis, plantar fasciitis, or even stress fractures can all cause heel pain in kids. It is important to find out exactly what is causing the discomfort in order to treat it properly.
Hurting and Compensating
Pain may be common, but it is not normal. If your child says his or her legs or feet hurt, it is a sign that something is going wrong and needs to be looked at. The main symptom of Sever’s disease is a dull ache at the back of the foot that gets worse when walking or running. It also occurs if you pinch on the heel bone, and sometimes with the first steps after your child has rested for a while.
Your child may not realize it, but you or the coach may notice that the pain has him or her to walk and run on the toes or limp. Sometimes the back of the foot is swollen or looks red or bruised. Your child may want to skip practice or seem to lose interest in his or her favorite sport.
Healing and Helping
If your child complains of pain, or you notice any of these symptoms of Sever’s disease, come in to Abbott Foot & Ankle Clinic and let us check out the problem. Chiropodist Tony Abbott will examine the foot and ask questions about your child’s activities. Sometimes we may use an X-ray or MRI to rule out other issues like stress fractures or bursitis. Then we will help you find the best way to relieve the pain.
There are many treatment avenues, but the most important is rest. Your child needs to stop the activity that brought this issue on and give their feet time to heal. Other treatments include devices to relieve pressure on the bone (heel cups) or correct a faulty gait (custom orthotics). Icing and compression to reduce swelling and pain, and stretches and strengthening exercise to get the leg muscles and tendons in better condition, are effective remedies as well. We may also recommend certain pain relievers. It is best to check with us first before using over-the-counter medications, because some can harm your child.
Give Abbott Foot & Ankle Clinic a call at (705) 444-9929 and set up an appointment. Heel pain in kids is something we see and treat often. We will help your child to recover and get him or her ready for playing favorite sports again.
Photo Credit: Claire Bloomfield via FreeDigitalPhotos.net