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Ankle Pain in Kids
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Children are active and constantly growing, which can sometimes growing pains can lead to foot pain. As parents, it’s important to pay attention to any complaints of severe foot pain from our kids. While some of your child’s pain is temporary and harmless, it’s crucial to identify the underlying causes and provide the necessary treatment.

So, let’s check out the most common causes of foot pain in children, discuss possible treatment options, and provide tips for preventing foot pain. Let’s do it~~

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Growing Pains in boy

Section 1: Understanding Growing Pains

According to the Mayo Clinic, growing pains are a common cause of foot pain in children. Despite the name, growing pains are not directly related to growth spurts. They are usually characterized by aching, throbbing, or cramping pain in the legs, ankles, and feet.

Growing pains typically occur in late childhood and can be experienced by both boys and girls. The pain often worsens in the evening or later, affecting a child’s ability to sleep and even waking them in the middle of the night. However, by morning, the pain usually subsides.

Recognizing the Signs

Growing pains can be challenging to differentiate from other causes of foot pain in children. However, there are a few key signs that can help parents identify growing pains:

  1. Location of pain: Growing pains primarily affect the lower legs, including the shins, calves, and ankles. The pain is not limited to specific joints and typically occurs in both legs the the back of the knees.
  2. Timing of pain: Growing pains commonly occur in the late afternoon or evening, often disrupting a child’s sleep. However, the pain usually disappears by morning.
  3. Absence of other symptoms: Children with growing pains are generally healthy and do not exhibit signs of illness or injury. They can participate in regular physical activities without limitations.

Understanding the Causes

The exact cause of growing pains is still unknown. However, several factors may contribute to their occurrence:

  1. Muscle fatigue: Growing pains may be a result of the strain placed on the leg muscles during physical activities and play. This can lead to mild inflammation, sore muscles, and discomfort.
  2. Rapid bone growth: As children go through growth spurts, their bones may lengthen faster than their muscles and tendons, causing temporary pain.
  3. Genetic predisposition: Some studies suggest that growing pains may be more common in children with a family history of similar symptoms.

Treating Growing Pains

Fortunately, growing pains typically resolve on their own and do not require extensive treatment. However, a good treatment plan or simple home remedies can help alleviate discomfort and provide relief for children experiencing growing pains:

  1. Gentle massage: Massaging the affected area with gentle pressure can help relax the muscles and reduce pain. A yoga foam roller is also lots of help.
  2. Heat therapy: Applying a warm pack or taking a warm bath can soothe the muscles and alleviate discomfort. We also use an electric heating pad when it’s needed. 
  3. Over-the-counter pain relievers: If the pain is severe, an age-appropriate, over-the-counter pain reliever such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen can be used. However, it’s important to follow the recommended dosage guidelines.

If your child’s symptoms persist or worsen, it’s advisable to consult their doctor for further evaluation and guidance.

boy tying his shoes.
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Section 2: Ill-Fitting Shoes and Foot Pain

Another common cause of foot pain in children is wearing ill-fitting shoes. Children’s feet grow rapidly, and it’s essential to ensure they have properly fitting footwear. We actually just bought some new sneakers for my son as the flat-sole shoes he had were not comfy to run around in or even walk with.

The Impact of Ill-Fitting Shoes

Wearing shoes that are too tight or too loose can lead to various foot problems and discomfort:

  1. Blisters: Tight shoes can create friction and lead to painful blisters on the feet.
  2. Bunions and corns: Incorrectly sized shoes can cause bunions and corns, which are painful skin conditions.
  3. Ingrown toenails: Shoes that are too tight can exert pressure on the toes, leading to ingrown toenails.
  4. General foot pain: Ill-fitting shoes can cause overall foot pain, affecting a child’s mobility and everyday activities.

Preventing Foot Pain from Ill-Fitting Shoes

To prevent foot pain caused by ill-fitting shoes, follow these tips:

  1. Regular foot measurements: Measure your child’s feet every few months to ensure they are wearing the correct shoe size.
  2. Proper shoe selection: Choose shoes that provide ample toe room, good arch support, and a secure fit without being too tight or too loose.
  3. Comfortable materials: Opt for shoes made of breathable materials that allow the feet to stay cool and dry.
  4. Replace shoes as needed: Replace your child’s shoes when they outgrow them or when signs of wear and tear become evident.
Sever's Disease

Section 3: Understanding Sever’s Disease

Sever’s Disease, also known as calcaneal apophysitis, is a common cause of heel pain in children. It is an inflammation of the growth plate in the heel bone, typically affecting active children between 8 and 14 years of age.

Identifying the Symptoms of Sever’s Disease

Sever’s Disease can be recognized by the following symptoms:

  1. Heel pain: Children with Sever’s Disease experience pain in the bottom of the heel or along the back of the foot. The pain may worsen during physical activities such as running or jumping.
  2. Limping or favoring one foot: The discomfort associated with Sever’s Disease may cause a child to limp or avoid putting weight on the affected foot.
  3. Tenderness and swelling: The heel may be tender to the touch, and slight swelling might be present.

Managing Sever’s Disease

While Sever’s Disease can be uncomfortable, it is usually self-limiting and resolves with time. However, there are several strategies that can help manage the pain and promote healing:

  1. Rest and reduced physical activity: Providing rest periods and limiting high-impact activities can alleviate stress on the affected foot, allowing it to heal.
  2. Ice therapy: Applying ice packs to the heel for 15-20 minutes at a time can reduce inflammation and provide temporary pain relief.
  3. Stretching exercises: Gentle stretching exercises can help improve flexibility and reduce tension in the calf muscles, which can alleviate heel pain. Posture exercises might help as well!
  4. Supportive footwear: Wearing shoes with good arch support and cushioning can help reduce pressure on the heels and provide comfort.

In severe cases or if symptoms persist, consulting with the child’s doctor should be done immediately.

Section 4: Flat Feet and Foot Pain

Flat feet, or fallen arches, can be a contributing factor to foot pain in children. Flat feet occur when the arches of the feet don’t develop properly, leading to a lack of support and potential discomfort during physical activities. My brother-in-law has flat feet and it’s no joke. He suffers at times when it comes to running and hiking but he has special insoles he uses. 

Identifying Flat Feet

To determine if your child has flat feet, look for the following signs:

  1. No visible arch: When your child stands, the normal arch of their foot may appear flat or significantly lowered.
  2. Foot pain: Flat feet can cause foot pain, particularly during physical activities or prolonged standing.
  3. Fatigue and muscle soreness: Children with flat feet may experience fatigue and muscle soreness in their feet, ankles, and lower legs.

Managing Flat Feet

In most cases, flat feet in children do not require treatment, as the arches typically develop as they grow older. However, if your child experiences pain or discomfort due to flat feet, the following strategies may help:

  1. Stretching exercises: Performing regular stretching exercises can strengthen the muscles and ligaments in the feet, providing better arch support.
  2. Orthotic inserts: Custom orthotic inserts can be prescribed by a pediatric podiatrist to provide additional arch support and reduce discomfort.
  3. Supportive footwear: Choosing shoes with good arch support and cushioning can alleviate symptoms and improve foot alignment.
Kids lined up walking in schoolyard

Section 5: Other Possible Causes of Foot Pain in Children

While growing pains, like the ones above mentioned, are common culprits of foot pain in children, there are other potential causes to consider:

  1. Injuries: Accidents and injuries, such as ankle sprains, stress fractures, or toe stubbing, can cause foot pain in children. Prompt medical attention is crucial to ensure proper healing and prevent complications.
  2. Muscle strain: Overuse or strain of the muscles in the feet and legs, often due to excessive physical activities, can result in foot pain. Rest and gentle massage can help alleviate the cause of your child’s discomfort with tight muscles.
  3. Infections: Infections, such as athlete’s foot or ingrown toenails, can cause foot pain and discomfort. Proper hygiene practices and prompt treatment are essential to prevent further complications.
  4. Structural abnormalities: Certain structural abnormalities, such as clubfoot or in-toeing/out-toeing, can lead to foot pain in children. Consultation with a pediatric podiatrist is recommended for proper evaluation and treatment.

Section 6: Preventing Foot Pain in Children

Prevention is key when it comes to foot pain in children. Implementing the following measures can help reduce the risk of foot pain and promote overall foot health:

  1. Encourage regular physical activity: Engaging in regular physical activity helps strengthen the muscles and ligaments in the feet, promoting foot health. I highly recommend Taekwondo for the kids. 
  2. Choose appropriate footwear: Select shoes that provide proper support, cushioning, and adequate room for growth.
  3. Promote good hygiene: Teach your child about proper foot hygiene, including regular washing, drying, and keeping toenails trimmed.
  4. Monitor growth and development: Regularly check your child’s feet for any signs of abnormalities, and consult a pediatric podiatrist if you have concerns.

Section 7: When to Seek Medical Attention

While many cases of foot pain in children can be managed at home, certain situations warrant a physical examination. Contact a pediatric podiatrist if your child experiences the following:

  1. Severe pain: If your child is experiencing severe or persistent type of pain that affects their daily activities or quality of life, consultation with a medical professional is recommended.
  2. Swelling or redness: Swelling, redness, or warmth in the feet or ankles may indicate an underlying condition that requires medical evaluation.
  3. Limping or difficulty walking: If your child is limping or having difficulty walking due to foot pain, it’s essential to seek professional advice for proper diagnosis and treatment.
  4. Fever or signs of infection: If your child develops a fever or shows signs of infection, such as increased pain, redness, or discharge, prompt medical attention is necessary.

++Daddy Tip!  A good idea is to use one of these ‘steppers.’ I’m not sure what the exact name is but they are under ‘acupressure’ on Amazon. Here in Korea, it’s a common site to see at people’s houses. It focuses on the arches, muscle tightness, and muscle cramps in the feet. An exceptional thing to have at home. It has many purposes and I use it to relax my feet after jogging and my wife uses it to help her digestion. It’s a great unknown tool in the West. 

One Step At A Time…

Foot pain in children can be caused by various factors and is usually nothing to be alarmed about.  By understanding the potential causes and implementing preventive measures, you can help your little ones maintain healthy feet and minimize discomfort.

If foot pain persists or worsens, consulting with a healthcare provider is advisable for accurate diagnosis and personalized treatment. By addressing foot pain in its early stages, parents can ensure their children’s overall well-being and mobility!

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