Heel pain can occur in both adults and children. Adults may experience plantar fasciitis, and children may suffer from Sever’s disease. If you or your child suffers from heel pain, it’s important to understand both of these conditions.
Sever’s disease occurs in children when the growing part of the heel is injured. This growing part is called the growth plate. The foot is one of the first body parts to grow to full size. This usually occurs in early puberty. During this time, bones often grow faster than muscles and tendons. As a result, muscles and tendons become tight. The heel area is less flexible. During weight-bearing activity (activity performed while standing), the tight heel tendons may put too much pressure at the back of the heel (where the Achilles tendon attaches). This can injure the heel.
A child is most at risk for this condition when he or she is in the early part of the growth spurt in early puberty. Sever’s disease is most common in physically active girls 8 to 10 years old and in physically active boys 10 to 12 years old. Soccer players and gymnasts often get Sever’s disease, but children who do any running or jumping activity may be affected. Sever’s disease rarely occurs in older teenagers because the back of the heel has finished growing by the age of 15.
Heel pain is most often caused by plantar fasciitis—a condition that is sometimes also called heel spur syndrome when a spur is present. Heel pain may also be due to other causes such as a stress fracture, tendonitis, arthritis, nerve irritation, or, rarely, a cyst. Because there are several potential causes, it is important to have heel pain properly diagnosed. Dr. Majewski is well trained to distinguish between all the possibilities and determine the underlying source of your heel pain.
Plantar fasciitis is an inflammation of the band of tissue (the plantar fascia) that extends from the heel to the toes. In this condition, the fascia first becomes irritated and then inflamed—resulting in heel pain. The symptoms of plantar fasciitis are:
- Pain on the bottom of the heel
- Pain that is usually worse upon arising
- Pain that increases over a period of months
People with plantar fasciitis often describe the pain as worse when they get up in the morning or after they've been sitting for long periods of time. After a few minutes of walking, the pain decreases because walking stretches the fascia. For some people, the pain subsides but returns after spending long periods of time on their feet.