pediatric foot pain
One of the most important aspects of a child's physical and emotional development is game play - the kind that doesn't involve sitting in front of a video screen. Organized sports, activities like climbing trees, biking, going for a swim, or just playing imaginary games with other kids in the neighborhood are all positive for their growth (think running, walking, jumping, moving - organized or otherwise). Good habits learned early follow a child into adulthood, and are key in combating the childhood and adult obesity epidemic.
But of course, foot, ankle, and heel pain complaints and other injuries run hand-in-hand with activity. Parents should note that the cause and symptoms of heel pain in children can be considerably different from heel pain in adults. If you've experienced heel pain, specifically plantar fasciitis, you know that its very bad in the morning, but diminishes as the tissue warms up with activity.
But in children, heel pain usually becomes much worse as the day wears on, and may be due to a condition called Sever's disease, an inflammation of the growth plate in their heel. This condition is especially common in children who are highly active or overweight. Heel pain in adolescents may also be due to plantar fasciitis, fractures in the heel bone, bursitis, achilles tendinitis, or other conditions. The good news is, a podiatrist can successfully resolve Sever's disease or other heel pain conditions in your child in almost every case.
Check out the Facebook page for NFL Play 60 to see how you can encourage your child to be more active.
When your child doesn't complain about their heel pain
Unfortunately, some children are slow to complain about heel pain and other injuries, which is where parents have to keep a watchful eye. When a child has pain in their heel, or pain elsewhere in their foot or ankle, it can cause any number of changes in the development of their bodies, as they shift weight and change their gait to compensate for the pain. This imbalance also makes them prone to further injuries. Parents should be mindful of changes in their children's body langauge and behavior, so that a heel pain injury can be addressed early.
Your child may be experiencing heel pain if you notice any of these changes:
- Difference in the way they walk
- Favoring one foot over another
- Occasional limping
- Walking on their toes
- Unusual fatigue
- Problems running
If your child complains about heel pain (or any other kind of pain), take it seriously and don't encourage them to "walk it off" or "play through it" - that's old school advice and may cause more damage in a person of any age. Your child should immediately leave the game or curtail their activities. To treat the injury at home, they should rest, ice their foot, and use an age and weight appropriate dose of advil or aleve to manage the pain. They should not resume strenuous physical activity until the heel pain has completely subsided. When your child resumes activity, it should be gradually, accompanied by appropriate stretching exercises to warm up their ankles and feet. Children should also wear athletic shoes which support their feet properly (but it's okay to let them run barefoot when appropriate).
If your child's heel pain continues for more than one week, make an appointment to see a podiatrist for an exam and diagnosis. Early intervention and treatment is the key to successfully resolving their complaint so they can get back to kid stuff as soon as possible.