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Relieving Heel Pain in Active Teenagers

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Kids are natural athletes. No, your little one probably isn’t going to make the NFL or NBA, but there’s a good chance he or she loves to run, jump, and play. Of course, we encourage this—physical activity, exercise, and recreational sports are a great way to build healthy habits to last a lifetime. At the same time, however, excessive athletic participation is often the catalyst for heel pain in growing teenagers.Heel pain in teenagers is common!

The primary reason for this? Calcaneal apophysitis. It’s also called Sever’s disease, though that’s a misnomer—it’s not a disease at all, but an injury that specifically affects children. The back of a child’s heel bone features an exposed area of relatively soft tissue called a growth plate. By the time they’ve reached skeletal maturity, this plate will be covered by harder bone tissue, but before then, it’s vulnerable to injury.

No child wants to be out of the action for very long. That’s why we offer a variety of treatment options for their heel pain. Fortunately, if you seek treatment at the first sign of symptoms, the pain will usually resolve using conservative care, with no long-term effects.

Potential treatments include:

  • Rest. Unfortunately, some amount of this is unavoidable, as the heel will need time to heal. Your child will probably have to take a break from their chosen sport, but we may be able to recommend some alternative activities to keep them occupied during their recovery.
  • Supports. We offer a range of both prefabricated and custom orthotic devices that can help support and cushion the heel or arch, relieving pain and reducing the risk of further injury.
  • Physical therapy. Often calcaneal apophysitis may be linked with tight tendons or calf muscles that pull on the heel bone. Stretches and other physical therapy exercises can be very helpful in soothing inflamed connective tissues, as well as reducing long-term pressure on the heel bone.
  • Medications. We’ll help you determine what, if any, pain medications might be appropriate, along with dosage recommendations.
  • Immobilization. Fortunately, this is rarely necessary. However, severe heel pain that doesn’t go away (perhaps because it’s so hard to convince kids to slow down for a few weeks!) might need to be immobilized and protected by a cast or walking boot during the healing process.

Sports injury care for athletes of all ages and ability levels is one of our core specialties, and our dedicated professionals are passionate about getting your active teenager back on the field as quickly as possible. To schedule an appointment with the Austin Foot & Ankle Specialists team, please give us a call today at (512) 328-8900.

Dr. Craig H. Thomajan, DPM, FACFAS, FAENS
Founder and Managing Partner of Austin Foot and Ankle Specialists
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