Foot pain in children is a concern as it may be difficult to diagnose due to a child’s limited communication skills. Often foot pain in children is the result of developing bones and muscles, that have not yet become accustomed to the increased demands placed on them during high levels of activity. Other conditions like warts and ingrown nails are probable causes of foot pain in kids, however, fractures and growth deformity in children may be an underlying cause of their pain.
But before we go deep into that, let’s explore some types of foot pain in children.
1. Heel pain
Heel pain remains a common complaint seen in active children. What parents must remember when a child complains of heel pain is that this is a warning sign and should be investigated properly. The most common cause of heel pain in children is calcaneal apophysitis (Sever’s Disease), but other causes include overuse injuries, Tendo-Achilles bursitis and less commonly fractures. But how do these come about? Children who take part in competitive sports with rigorous training, repeated stress and high impact forces are at high risk of heel pain. The growth plates, Achilles tendons or bones in children’s heels become inflamed and do not settle due to the repeated trauma from sport and activity. There may also be other tight muscles and structures restricting normal movement patterns, which facilitate an increase in these repetitive forces. Ensuring your child gets a break from strenuous exercises, has a post-activity warm down plan and is wearing the suitable protective footwear can help you mitigate this problem.
2. Growing pains
Growing pains affect between 15-30% of all children and commonly occur in the feet and legs in the afternoon or evening, with some cases they might cause sleep problems. The exact causes of growing pains aren’t very clear. However, it is believed to be related to fatigue and strain on the muscles as children grow. Evidence suggests that sudden growth spurts and intense activities in children could exacerbate symptoms. The important thing to remember with growing pains is the area is not painful to touch. Simple management strategies such as gentle stretching before bed and heat packs can also be effective with symptom management. a children’s podiatrist can help exclude more sinister conditions that present as growing pains in children.
3. Ingrown toenail
This occurs when the nail plate grows into the adjacent skin or is forced through the skin by trauma. Pain from an ingrown toenail is often accompanied by infection, this is due to a warm damp environment in shoes and socks being a breeding ground for bacteria. The affected skin dons a red colour and may appear inflamed, with a yellow discharge often seen. When this occurs in our children’s feet it is important to see a children’s podiatrist. Your podiatrist will discuss prevention strategies to minimise recurrence of ingrown toenails.
4. Plantar Warts
This is a lesion occurring on the sole of the foot due to a viral infection. The lesion may appear to have black dots or may be part of a cluster of lesions, with pain at the area when squeezed being a defining characteristic of plantar warts. Plantar warts can occur on any part of the foot but commonly occur on the insole because the area is more exposed to microtrauma and pressure, which provide an entry point for the virus.