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Childhood Obesity Linked to Foot Pain
CHICAGO, PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Doctors with the American College of Foot and
Ankle Surgeons (ACFAS) say they're noticing more and more overweight and obese
children with foot and ankle pain in their examining rooms, mirroring a national
epidemic of childhood obesity.
An estimated 16 percent of U.S. children ages six to 19 are overweight. Poor
diet, lack of exercise and genetics can play a role. A "vicious cycle" of foot
pain and obesity traps some children.
"You want overweight children to exercise and lose weight, but because of their
weight, their feet hurt and they can't exercise," says Thanh Dinh, DPM, FACFAS,
a foot and ankle surgeon in Boston.
The foot is a complex structure consisting of 26 bones, 33 joints and more than
100 muscles, tendons and ligaments. Last November, researchers in Britain
reported, "alarming new evidence that childhood obesity changes foot structure
and results in instability when walking." Being overweight flattens the foot,
straining the plantar fascia, a band of tissue which runs from the heel to the
base of the toes, causing heel pain.
Because the heel bone is not fully developed until age 14 or older, overweight
children are more prone to Sever's disease. Although not an actual disease,
according to FootPhysicians.com, it involves an inflammation of the heel's
growth plate due to muscle strain and repetitive stress. Walking makes the pain
worse. Being overweight may also cause stress fractures, or hairline fractures
(breaks) in a child's heel bone.
Arch pain afflicts many of the children treated by Darryl Haycock, DPM, FACFAS.
The northwest Ohio foot and ankle surgeon says the average age of these boys and
girls ranges from eight to 12, but he's treated some as young as four.
"The numbers are definitely increasing. I treat four to five overweight children
a week," he says.
Haycock notes some overweight children suffer foot pain from congenital or
inherited foot conditions, such as bunions, hammertoes, pediatric flatfoot and
tarsal coalition, an abnormal connection between two or more bones in the back
of the foot. Children with these deformities may be less active because of pain.
Sometimes a child will complain of calf or arch pain. This results from a
flatfoot that is flexible. The collapsing of the arch can require more energy,
making it more difficult for a child to walk and run.
Foot and ankle surgeons treat many overweight children with custom orthotic
devices (shoe inserts), physical therapy and other conservative measures to
reduce or eliminate pain. But treating painful feet and ankles is only part of
the childhood weight loss equation, says Samuel Nava, DPM, FACFAS. The suburban
Dallas surgeon has treated weight-related foot problems in toddlers to
"As foot and ankle surgeons, we can reduce the aches and pains so these children
can run around and play like all the other kids, but parents need to watch their
children's lifestyles and diets," he says.
For more information on pediatric foot and ankle conditions, or to find a foot
and ankle surgeon, visit the ACFAS patient information Web site, http://www.footphysicians.com/.
The American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons (ACFAS) is a professional
society of more than 6,000 foot and ankle surgeons. Founded in 1942, the
College's mission is to promote research and provide continuing education for
the foot and ankle surgical specialty, and to educate the general public on foot
health and conditions of the foot and ankle through its consumer Web site,