More often than not, orthopedic conditions in small children should not cause concern because they tend to correct themselves without treatment. Some don’t and become more cause for concern because they can develop into other medical conditions.
We’ve all heard the expression “growing pains.” Playing and most sports-related activities do not produce pain for most children. Your child does not have to be involved in competitive sports to complain of pain in their feet, ankles or other parts of their lower extremities.
While a child is still growing, and their feet are developing, it is best to catch a foot or ankle injury or deformity sooner, rather than later, to increase the likelihood of long-term treatment success. One common foot condition that is found in both children and adults is flatfeet.
Flatfeet is a condition that may cause issues as a child matures. Most babies are born with flatfeet and develop a natural arch as they grow and walk because the tendons along the bottom of the foot tighten, which shapes the arch of the foot. However, in some children, an arch never develops. Flatfeet may be inherited.
There are two general types of flat feet: flexible flatfoot and rigid flatfoot. With flexible flatfoot, the foot has a normal arch at rest (not standing or walking), but it disappears once it comes in contact with the ground while barefoot. Flexible flatfoot is considered a variation of a normal foot and the muscles and the joints function normally. As a child progresses into adolescence, they may experience pain along the bottom of the feet.
The other type, “rigid” or “true” flatfoot, is when an arch is not present whether sitting or standing. There are painful conditions related to flatfeet such as leg, knee, hip, lower back pain, Achilles tendonitis, and plantar fascia.
If pain is persistent, it may be time to have your child evaluated by a licensed healthcare professional such as a medical doctor, osteopathic doctor, or doctor of podiatric medicine for a proper diagnosis.
Non-invasive treatment options are available by using over-the-counter or custom-made orthodic inserts, corrective or supportive footwear. Your doctor may also provide a referral to a physical therapist to recommend and prescribe exercises to promote increased movement and strengthen the foot muscles and tendons
When it comes to determining if “growing pains” are the cause of your child’s foot, leg, or back pain, watch and listen to your child. Noticing changes in their gait and listening to them when they complain about pain or discomfort, is the first step in correcting the problem.
The California Department of Consumer Affairs licenses healthcare providers through the Medical Board of California, Osteopathic Medical Board of California, Physical Therapy Board of California and the Podiatric Medical Board of California. To check the license of any of the healing-arts providers noted above, visit search.dca.ca.gov for more information.