Sever?s disease is the most common cause of heel pain in children aged 9 to 14. Sever?s disease results from stress placed on the growth plate of the heel bone. An excessive amount of running or other activities can cause inflammation around the growth plate, which results in pain. Rest, ice and orthotics and proper shoes are usually prescribed.
A big tendon called the Achilles tendon joins the calf muscle at the back of the leg to the heel. Sever?s disease is thought to occur because of a mismatch in growth of the calf bones to the calf muscle and Achilles tendon. If the bones grow faster than the muscles, the Achilles tendon that attaches the muscle to the heel gets tight. At the same time, until the cartilage of the calcaneum is ossified (turned into bone), it is a potential weak spot. The tight calf muscle and Achilles tendon cause a traction injury on this weak spot, resulting in inflammation and pain. Sever?s disease most commonly affects boys aged ten to 12 years and girls aged nine to 11 years, when growth spurts are beginning. Sever?s disease heals itself with time, so it is known as self-limiting. There is no evidence to suggest that Sever?s disease causes any long term problems or complications.
The main symptom of sever’s disease is pain and tenderness at the back of the heel which is made worse with physical activity. Tenderness will be felt especially if you press in or give the back of the heel a squeeze from the sides. There may be a lump over the painful area. Another sign is tight calf muscles resulting with reduced range of motion at the ankle. Pain may go away after a period of rest from sporting activities only to return when the young person goes back to training.
A Podiatrist can easily evaluate your child?s feet, to identify if a problem exists. Through testing the muscular flexibility. If there is a problem, a treatment plan can be create to address the issue. At the initial treatment to control movement or to support the area we may use temporary padding and strapping and depending on how successful the treatment is, a long-term treatment plan will be arranged. This long-term treatment plan may or may not involve heel raises, foot supports, muscle strengthening and or stretching.
Non Surgical Treatment
If your child have Sever’s disease, the following is suggested, cut back on sporting activities, don’t stop, just reduce the amount until symptoms improve (if the condition has been present for a while, a total break from sport may be needed later) avoid going barefoot, a soft cushioning heel raise is really important (this reduces the pull from the calf muscles on the growth plate and increases the shock absorption, so the growth plate is not knocked around as much). Stretch the calf muscles, provided the stretch does not cause pain in the area of the growth plate). The use of an ice pack after activity for 20mins is often useful for calcaneal apophysitis – this should be repeated 2 to 3 times a day.
After the painful symptoms of Sever’s disease have gone away, it is important to continue stretching the heel, particularly before a vigorous exercise, and wearing good supportive shoes fitted with children’s arch supports. This will prevent heel pain recurrence until the child’s heel is fully developed and less prone to injury.