Heel Pain in Kids: Causes and Treatments

Heel pain is a common thing with children. They tend to play a lot, engage in competitive sports, some may have rigorous training schedules, or some simply keep jumping around the house all day, that’s how kids are! Naturally, will all that exertion and activity, comes a bit of pain. Kids often complain of pain in their heels. Although it is usually not a matter of serious concern, but a proper examination or diagnosis followed by a prudent treatment is highly recommended. If your kid complains to you of heel pain, or tenderness in the ankle or back of the foot, or is limping, or walking on his/ her toes, he/ she may have had an injury or sprained a muscle.

Foot injuries can develop gradually over the time, usually because of injuries caused by overuse or repetitive activities. Such injuries are common can usually be resolved with simple home remedies. Treatment of heel pain is very important, particularly in kids, as ignoring it or deferring it can cause severe injuries and chronic pain. Here are some of the common causes of heel pain in kids and ways to treat them:

Sever’s disease (Calcaneal apophysitis)

Calcaneal apophysitis is the most common reason of heel pain in athletes within the age group of 5 years to 11 years. It is the form of an overuse injury caused due to a repetitive set of activities (or micro trauma) during sports. It is believed to be caused when the Achilles tendon on the growing heel bone gets pulled or injured. Common causes are running or jumping, and this condition is usually seen in kids who play a lot of basketball, soccer, and track athletes. Girls who jump rope may also be at risk for developing calcaneal apophysitis.

Symptoms include pain in the heels, and tenderness when squeezing the foot, swelling may also occur. Treatments include using ice packs; mild stretching of the calf muscles; and pain relievers. You can also use cushioned heel lifts to help relieve pain. The pain usually eases out within a one or two weeks and the kid can return to his favorite sport within three to six weeks.

Achilles Tendonitis

Achilles tendonitis occurs in children often as a result of a sudden increase in physical activities. It is commonly identified in kids within a few weeks into a new sports season. The Achilles tendon attaches the muscles of your calf to the heel bone and allows you to push the foot forward during walking and running. When this tendon gets irritated or inflamed, it causes severe pain, swelling, warmth, and can hamper normal walking. Typically, the pain starts off with a mild severity and gradually gets worse as with each passing day. Kids, who indulge in repetitive activities or sports like running, jumping, pivoting, basketball, and even dancing, are more likely to develop Achilles tendonitis. It is very important for your kid to wear the right kind of shoes that offer a good support and prevent undue stress.

Common remedies include taking rest, icing, elevation, and mild compression. Many doctors also recommend using a wrap to keep the swelling down and support the tendon during the initial period. One may also go for an anti-inflammatory medication to reduce the swelling and pain. Stretching exercises for the calf and ankle muscles can also help in relieving pain and recovery from the injury. Without treatment, it can become a chronic condition may start causing pain during routine activities like walking.

Plantar fasciitis

Plantar fasciitis is another injury that is caused by repetitive activity or overuse. It is caused by the irritation of the plantar fascia, which is the connective tissue that runs along the arch from the heel to the front of our foot. It can occur in people of all ages, including kids. Common symptoms include pain in and around the heels, difficulty in walking, tightness along the arch of the feet. Similar to Achilles tendonitis, the symptoms of plantar fasciitis typically start off with a mild severity and get worse with time. Some of the common risk factors may include sudden increase in physical activities; joining sports that involve running and jumping; wearing worn out shoes or those shoes which have poor support; indulging in physical activities that may involve standing for longer durations.

Treatment remedies include resting, applying ice packs, massages, and elevation. Applying ice packs on the heels helps decrease swelling. You can give the kid some pain relievers to reduce the pain. Many doctors recommend massaging by using a tennis ball and rolling it along the arch of the foot. It increases the circulation of blood, and allows a faster healing. Many times, some special athletic shoes are also recommended by doctors or physiotherapists to help avoid recurrence.

Injuries & Fractures

Sometimes, kids may end up having a heel or foot fracture by engaging in high-impact sports. Although they are quite rare, but heel fractures can happen due to a fall or a sudden impact on the feet. The signs of fractures or internal injuries to feet include acute pain, inflammation, severe bruising, and inability to put on weight. Treatment remedies include ice packs, resting, limiting mobilization with the use of a casts or splints, and pain relievers. Kids should refrain from any type of activities or sports until the fracture is healed. Physiotherapy often helps during and after the healing. It is strongly recommended to get an examination by your doctor to ascertain the cause of the injury or pain. A case of complex fractures can even require a surgical treatment; however, such a situation is quite rare with kids.

Always consult a doctor regarding your kid’s heel pain as you may or may not really know the actual cause of the pain. Heel pain can be resolved with home remedies as explained above, but a prolonged pain in the heels may be something serious. Take your child to a specialist at once and get it examined.