Heel pain in children, what causes it?
The sudden development of pain in the heel of a child’s or adolescent’s foot is usually related to an injury to the growth plate of a bone located near the heel. This condition is called Sever’s disease.
Another condition that behaves similarly to Sever’s disease is Achilles tendonitis — an inflammation of the tendon at the back of the heel -- but it’s not a growth plate injury. Achilles tendonitis can actually be a contributing factor to Sever’s disease if the inflamed tendon pulls too hard on the growth plate of the heel bone.
Symptoms of Sever’s Disease include:
- Pain and swelling in the affected heel(s)
- Tenderness in the back of the heel
- Surge in pain with activity and weight bearing
- Tendency to walk on toes and keep weight off heels
This condition is most common among active and athletic adolescents between 8 - 15 years old, especially those who wear cleats for their activities. Males tend to be more affected than females.
Treating Sever’s Disease
Fortunately, Sever’s Disease is not a serious condition that requires surgical intervention. Resting, icing, stretching, and taking over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medicines can provide some relief. The pain should subside after a couple of days.
If the pain persists, the child should be examined by a podiatrist to check for a more serious condition.
Severe cases may require a walking cast or boot, or the use of orthotic insoles or footwear.