Achilles Tendinitis in Children – Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment
Achilles Tendinitis in Children
The Achilles tendon runs along the back of the lower leg to connect the calf muscles to the heel bone. When it becomes inflamed, the condition is known as Achilles tendinitis. It is a fairly common condition, typically caused by overuse. Although most often seen in adults, Achilles tendinitis also affects children, particularly older kids who participate in sports.
Signs & Symptoms
The most common early sign of Achilles tendinitis is heel pain. This pain often strikes first thing in the morning, when the child first puts weight on their foot. But it also occurs after the child has been running or playing sports.
Other Achilles tendinitis symptoms include:
- Swelling and/or knots in the Achilles tendon
- Creaking sounds when you massage or move the tendon
- Shooting pain when you point the foot
- Weakness in the leg
- Pain when wearing shoes, particularly if they’re too tight
In adults, tendinitis may be confused with Plantar Fasciitis, and in kids, Sever’s Disease. It is important for your podiatrist, or pediatric podiatrist, rules these out first since these conditions are much more common than Achilles tendinitis.
What Causes Achilles Tendinitis?
The most common cause of Achilles tendinitis is overuse, i.e. repeated use of the tendon. Other causes of tendinitis include:
- A sudden increase in physical activity
- Not warming up the leg muscles before exercising
- Wearing shoes that don’t fit well or offer proper support
- Failure to stretch the tendon properly after physical activity
- Acute injury to the Achilles tendon or surrounding area
How Is Achilles Tendinitis Diagnosed?
Dr. Jarman begins by taking your child’s medical history and conducting a thorough examination. Typically, he asks the child a number of questions, including whether they feel pain and when pain is worse.
If he believes your child has tendinitis, he may order diagnostic tests, such as x-rays or an MRI, to determine whether the tendon is torn.
To begin, Dr. Jarman usually recommends resting the affected leg. This typically means abstaining from the activity that likely caused the problem. Ask Dr. Jarman about non-weight-bearing exercises like biking and swimming.
Resting allows the tendon time to heel. The doctor may also recommend:
- Stretching exercises
- Shoe inserts called orthotics
- Apply ice or cold packs
- Taping or wrapping the tendon and ankle
- Elevating the foot
- Over-the-counter medications to manage inflammation
- Physical therapy
- A walking boot or soft cast
Surgery is rarely needed to treat Achilles tendinitis in children.