Why Your Teen’s Heel Hurts

by | Jun 23, 2017

Our youth here in Milwaukee County are fortunate to have a wide array of sport options. Sports and other physical activities provide countless benefits in so many different areas. It’s easy to think about the physical ones—working out is obviously important for strengthening muscles, improving cardiovascular performance, and shedding unnecessary weight—but there are also intangible ones like learning how to set goals and contribute to a team.

Of course, all benefits from physical activity are accompanied by a certain degree of risk for foot and ankle injuries, including heel pain. The most common cause of teen heel pain, though, is exacerbated (and not directly caused) by activities that entail running and jumping.

If you are wondering why your teen’s heel hurts, the most likely cause is Sever’s disease (calcaneal apophysis). Contrary to the name, this is not actually a disease, and it isn’t even necessarily an injury. Instead, Sever’s is a condition that develops on account of differences in physical maturation for the heel bone (calcaneus) and Achilles tendon. The problem develops when the physis (a growth plate) in the back of a heel bone goes through a growth spurt before the tendons—specifically, the Achilles tendon—and muscles in the leg.

When adolescents—especially boys between the ages of 10-15 and girls between the ages of 8-13—are physically active or play sports like basketball or tennis, it can lead to excessive strain on tendons that are already overstretched. This results in symptoms like:

  • Heel pain following physical activity and particularly if it goes away with rest.
  • Limping or trouble while walking.
  • Swelling, redness, and pain in the affected heel(s).
  • Tightness and tenderness, which is especially noticeable when the area is gently squeezed.

Childhood heel pain caused by Sever’s disease goes away in time (once the Achilles tendon grows). Until it does, your child will benefit from treatment centered on alleviating painful symptoms that accompany this common condition.

While Sever’s disease is the most common, there are other sources of heel pain for children, including plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendinitis, and heel bone fractures.

When your son or daughter experiences pain in the heel, or anywhere in the foot or ankle, come in to see us here at Wisconsin Podiatry Center. We will assess the situation, provide a diagnosis, and then create a treatment plan specifically for your child. Contact us by calling (414) 425-8400 to request an appointment for your son or daughter with our Hales Corners foot doctor office.

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