Is Heel Pain in Children Normal?

by | Dec 29, 2017

As we discuss child heel pain a little more in-depth—since we could basically answer whether or not heel pain in children is normal in a single word (“no”)—it’s important to keep in mind that pain is never normal! 

If anyone in your family—child or adult—is experiencing heel pain, it’s an indication of an existing problem – one that should be addressed. 

That said, child heel pain isn’t uncommon. 

The most common cause of heel pain for children is a condition known as Sever’s disease.  

Before we go further, don’t let the “disease” part of the condition mislead you. Sever’s isn’t actually a disease. Instead, it is a condition that develops on account of variance in growth rates between a couple of body parts – the Achilles tendon and a growth plate found in the back of the heel bone. 

(Actually, the condition is also sometimes called by its more formal name of calcaneal apophysis.) 

So why does that cause heel pain? Well, the Achilles is anchored to the back of the heel bone. When the bone plate goes through a growth spurt before the tendon reaches peak physical maturity, there is a tugging (which is the source of the pain). This can be rather painful in and of itself, but the pain is exacerbated when physical activity enters the picture. As such, teenagers who are physically active tend to be more commonly affected. 

Given the nature of Sever’s disease, treatment is not centered on trying to “resolve the problem.” Instead, our focus is to address the symptoms. The reason for this is because the condition will resolve on its own (as the Achilles completes its growth). 

We want your teenage sons and daughters to be able to participate in favorite activities. Fortunately, treatment can help, including options like: 

  • Rest – When activity leads to painful symptoms, your son or daughter may need to take it easy for a while. Instead of completely avoiding activity, either limited participation or performing low-impact activities (swimming, cycling) can keep the heel from facing excessive stress. 
  • Medication – As is always the case, make sure you consult with our office for dosage recommendations first, but ibuprofen, naproxen, and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can relieve painful symptoms. 
  • Ice – Not only can an icing regimen decrease pain, it can also help to reduce any swelling or inflammation in the area. 
  • Physical therapy – Stretches and strengthening exercises are also quite beneficial. Our office can help by providing specific exercises that will be optimally effective. 
  • Support – Supportive shoes, heel inserts, and custom orthotics can reduce the amount of stress the heel bone faces. 

If you would like to know more about this common source of child heel pain—or you want to request an appointment for your son or daughter—contact Wisconsin Foot Center by calling our Hales Corners office at (414) 425-8400 or by filling out our online contact form. 

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