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Photo for blog article titled Your child’s heel pain - a journey to happy steps

Your child’s heel pain - a journey to happy steps

Heel pain can be a distressing symptom in children, significantly affecting their daily activities and sports participation. It's important for parents to understand the potential causes and available treatments. In this article, we’ll explore the most common causes of heel pain in children, symptoms to watch for, and how osteopathy can help.

Common causes of heel pain in children

1. Sever's Disease

Sever’s disease is a common condition that occurs during periods of rapid growth when the leg bones and heel bone grow at different rates. This mismatch in growth rates puts stress on the surrounding muscles, causing them to tighten. The tight muscles repeatedly pull on the heel and the unossified growth plate. Combined with compression from the heel striking the ground, this can lead to inflammation and pain along the growth plate. It typically affects girls aged 6-13 and boys aged 10-15, particularly those active in sports like football and gymnastics.

2. Achilles Tendonitis

While more common in adults and older children, Achilles tendonitis can still affect younger individuals, especially those involved in repetitive sports. The condition arises from inflammation of the tendon connecting the calf muscle to the heel, often due to overuse. Symptoms include pain on waking and when bearing weight, pain during activities, swelling, a knot in the Achilles, and a creaking sound when the tendon is massaged.

3. Calcaneal Fracture

Although less common due to the greater elasticity and cartilage in children's feet, calcaneal (heel bone) fractures can occur, particularly with increased physical activity. These fractures are serious and require immediate medical attention.

Symptoms of heel pain in children

Children with heel pain might exhibit several symptoms, such as:

  • Pain in the heel, either at the back or underneath.
  • Limping, or walking on their toes or the sides of their feet.
  • Increased pain in the morning due to inflammation and tension in the Achilles tendon.
  • Pain exacerbation with physical activity.

A key diagnostic method involves squeezing the child's heel, which can trigger pain along the growth plate. Additionally, X-rays can sometimes show fissures that indicate a fracture.

How osteopathy can help

Osteopaths approach heel pain in children by focusing on reducing the tension in the Achilles tendon, which in turn decreases the upward pull on the heel. We also assess other areas that may contribute to this tension. Treatments are tailored to the specific needs of the child and often include techniques to improve muscle flexibility, enhance joint mobility, and advise on proper footwear and activity modification.

Proactive treatment is key

Proactive and early treatment is crucial for successful outcomes in managing heel pain. Regular visits to an osteopath can prevent the progression of symptoms and ensure that children can continue their activities with minimal discomfort.

If your child is experiencing any form of heel pain, it's important to consult with healthcare professionals who can provide a comprehensive evaluation and appropriate treatment plan tailored to your child's needs. Remember, early intervention is the best step towards recovery.

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Mother and baby