Children's Heel Pain
We treat many patients at Capital District Podiatry for problems that cause heel pain. As is the case with some medical issues, there are several potential reasons why a patient experiences pain in this particular area. In looking at our younger patients, we see that adolescents often suffer from a medical condition called calcaneal apophysis. More commonly known as Sever’s disease, this condition develops in either one or both feet and stems from variances within the physical growth process.
Sever’s Disease Cause and Symptoms
Despite the common name, it is not actually a “disease.” Instead, the cause behind the pain is simply a matter of the calcaneus (heel bone) growing at a faster rate than the connective tissue—particularly the Achilles tendon—that is anchored by it. This results in a situation where tendons and muscles connected to the bone become excessively tight and overstretched. The problem is further exacerbated when sports or other physical activities enter the picture.
Calcaneal apophysis is generally seen in male patients between the ages of 10 and 15 and in female patients between the ages of 8 and 13. Excess pressure and stress on the soft tissues is not only experienced as a result of sports, but also from poor-fitting footwear, standing for long periods, and overuse.
The primary symptoms we observe in our patients for this condition include:
- Heel pain
- Discomfort and stiffness in the back of the heel upon waking in the morning
- Limping or difficulty with walking
- Swelling and/or redness in the back of the heel area
Usually, the symptoms worsen during or after physical activities and then lessen after the child has rested for an extended period of time.
Treating Sever’s Disease
Since this condition is not a disease and is, instead, caused by variances in the natural growth process, treatment options are focused on relieving painful symptoms, and not on resolving the condition itself.
Treatment for Sever’s will frequently entail:
- Reduced levels of physical activity – Activities that cause pain in the affected heel(s) need to be either limited or avoid altogether until the pain subsides.
- Support for affected heels – Our office can prescribe custom orthotic devices that offer extra support for the heel. This promotes reduced inflammation and pain in the affected area.
- Medication – We may prescribe or recommend certain nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to reduce levels of inflammation and pain. Ibuprofen often proves to be particularly effective, but keep in mind that if you are going to provide medication to your son or daughter be sure to check with our office for appropriate dosages.
- Physical therapy – Stretching and therapeutic modalities are also useful in helping inflamed tissue to heal and become more limber.
- Immobilization – For patients who are dealing with a severe case, our doctors may prescribe a cast or other device to promote healing by keeping the affected area immobile.
There is no known method of preventing this condition from developing, but there are actions that can be performed to lower the risk and severity of the heel pain that often accompanies it.
A healthy bodyweight will keep excess pressure off an affected heel. Supportive shoes that are well-constructed can prevent symptoms, especially when they are intended for the sports or activities that your son or daughter performs. It is also a good idea to limit the amount of high-impact activities (those that require lots of running and/or jumping) that he or she performs
The best news with regards to Sever’s disease is that is only a temporary situation. In time, connective tissues catch up to the growth of the heel bone, and your son or daughter will likely grow out of the condition and without sustaining any long-term damage.
Pediatric Foot Care in Albany, NY
When your son or daughter needs expert pediatric or adolescent foot care in the greater Albany, NY community, Capital District Podiatry is ready to help. Schedule an appointment for either our Clifton Park or Troy, NY offices online or give us a call at (518) 273-0053.