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Children's Toe Walking Not a Sign of Bigger Problems

Swedish Study Finds Most Kids Grow Out of It
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What Parents Should Know

For parents, it is important to understand that toe walking does not indicate an underlying problem for most children, says Jonathan Strober, MD, a pediatric neurologist at UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital in San Francisco. He was not involved in the research.

Nevertheless, he says, many parents become understandably alarmed when their child starts to toe walk. He was no exception. His 3-year-old daughter is a toe walker.

"I freaked out," he says. "As a neurologist, the worst possibilities went through my head."

Fortunately, Strober's daughter is just fine. And what he likes most about this study is that it offers reassuring evidence that the same can be said for most toe walkers.

"The fact that your kid toe walks is not a sign that they have autism," he says.

Beers agrees.

"A lot of kids who toe walk are developing normally," she says, "If it's an isolated finding, it is not something to be too worried about. If there are no underlying concerns, it's just something to keep an eye on."

However, Beers does say that kids who spend a lot of time on their toes can develop stiffness, tightening, and pain in their Achilles tendon, which can be eased with stretching exercises.

"Parents can help their kids to stretch while reading or watching TV," says Beers. "That helps keep the Achilles tendon supple and stretched out."

Treatment for toe walking is seldom necessary for children ages 6 and under, unless the condition has caused a shortening of the Achilles tendon or calf muscles. If that has happened, surgery may be required, Engstrom says.

Although different treatments have been suggested, Engstrom says more studies are needed to determine the best one.

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