They grow up so fast!
One minute, you’re holding your newborn child in your arms for the first time. Blink, and they’re learning to walk, talk, and maybe even throw a little sass your way. Blink again, they’re off to college. Maybe you might want to hold off on blinking for a bit!
Of course, there’s no way to slow the passage of time—at least not unless you have access to a massive gravity well or a vessel that can travel at a substantial fraction of the speed of light. (Relativity joke for all you Einstein nerds out there.)
But no matter how quickly the years seem to fly by, we can at least all agree on this—11 years old is too young for heel pain! Unfortunately, it’s an all-too-common occurrence, especially among active adolescents.
Why Your Son or Daughter’s Feet Ache Like an Old Man’s
In some ways, the environmental factors that contribute to heel pain are broadly similar whether you’re 9 years old or 90. In virtually all cases, heel pain arises from repetitive, chronic stress and overuse. For example:
- Spending most of your day on your feet, whether at your job or exploring your neighborhood.
- Enjoying active hobbies, like hiking or playing sports.
- Wearing shoes that don’t fit—certainly a problem for adults and kids alike.
- Obesity, another problem that unfortunately is affecting more and more young kids.
However, while these “surface level” factors may seem to be connected, the truth is that kids’ heel pain is often very different from that of their parents and grandparents when you look under the hood. While adults tend to suffer from plantar fasciitis, kids just haven’t had enough years of wear and tear for that to be a likely diagnosis.
Instead, kids are more likely to suffer from something called Sever’s disease, which …
Wait, It’s a Disease?
Thankfully, no. It’s called Sever’s disease, but it’s not really a disease at all. It’s an injury condition, more like a bruise or a sprain. We know, we know, it’s confusing. We didn’t name it, so don’t blame us.
So What Is Sever’s Disease Then?
We were just getting to that!
Like we said, during childhood kids grow up fast. Really fast—sometimes several inches in a summer! The bones, of course, have to keep the pace, so they remain relatively soft and flexible (at least compared to an adult’s bones) until children are well into their teens.
In addition, the end points of many of a child’s bones are capped by an even softer area of cartilage known as the “growth plate.” As you might imagine, these growth plates are chiefly responsible for cranking out new bone tissue and increasing bone length relatively quickly. Once the bones reach adult size, they get covered up by hardened, mature bone.
But during childhood and adolescence, those growth plates are very exposed. By their nature, they’re more vulnerable than mature bone to bruising, swelling, and cracking. And two growth plates in particular are smack in the middle of the crossfire for active kids—the ones at the ends of the heel bones.
Getting Your Child Back to Health
We do have some good news, though. While the pain won’t go away in a day, conservative treatments for Sever’s disease tend to be highly effective. Options we may recommend include:
- Rest / activity reduction. Simultaneously the easiest (physically) and most difficult (emotionally) therapy. The last thing any kid wants to hear is that they can’t play for a week or two. But that rest time is necessary to allow the injured growth plate to heel.
- Physical therapy. Often, the constant tug of tight muscles, tendons and ligaments on the swollen heel bone contributes to the discomfort of Sever’s disease. (Basically, the heel bone can grow faster than the soft tissues that connect to it.) We can give your child a list of stretches and exercises meant to relax that tension.
- New shoes or orthotics. If a child’s footgear isn’t supportive enough for the activity they perform, pain is the all-too-frequent result. Sometimes it’s just a matter of finding the right pair of shoes. In other cases, your child may benefit from temporary (or occasionally longer term) use of orthotic inserts.
For those few cases that just won’t go away, despite attempting the above solutions, we also have:
- Immobilization. Maybe the injury is particularly severe—or maybe your child just can’t sit still for more than two seconds and keeps re-injuring the growth plate. Either way, we might night to use a short leg cast or protective boot to finally give the heel the time and protection it needs to heal.
- Specialty treatments. Hey, we wouldn’t have a division of our practice called “The Heel Pain Center of the Carolinas” without some advanced options, right? If the pain is tough—or your child is a dedicated athlete looking to return in the shortest possible time—we do offer some more advanced therapies, like laser treatments, PRP therapy, and AmnioFix. These “regenerative” treatments are all designed to boost your natural healing responses in one way or another, and are highly effective as both a recovery tool and an alternative to surgery.
If heel pain is keeping your son or daughter from enjoying their activities and sending them home hobbling worse than their own parents or grandparents, it’s time to get them some help! Give the pediatric foot care experts at Carmel Foot Specialists a call today.
- Myers Park: (704) 334-8682
- South Charlotte: (704) 542-8253