If your teen or preteen is complaining of heel pain, it might be Sever?s disease. No need to stress - this isn?t actually a ?disease,? but rather a common type of growing pain that only lasts a few weeks or months and doesn?t leave any long-term damage. Sever?s disease occurs in kids as they hit their adolescent growth spurt, usually between the ages of 8-13 for girls and 10-15 for boys. It?s most common among active kids that run, play basketball or soccer, or do gymnastics. Kids with flat feet, high arches, short leg syndrome, over-pronation (feet that roll inward when they walk) or who are overweight or obese also have an increased risk.
Sever?s Disease is thought to be caused by several reasons. Growth spurts. The muscles and tendons become tight due to rapid bone growth. Overuse. Sever?s Disease can also occur in children who are athletically active and overwork his or her muscles. Some physicians are beginning to caution parents about checking their children?s shoes to make sure they fit well and do not pinch or put undue pressure on the child?s feet. Pronation can also bring on Sever?s Disease.
Pain symptoms usually begin after a child begins a new sport or sporting season, and can worsen with athletic activities that involve running and jumping. It is common for a child with Sever?s disease to walk with a limp. Increased activity can lead to heel cord tightness (Achilles Tendon), resulting in pressure on the apophysis of the calcaneus. This will cause irritation of the growth plate and sometimes swelling in the heel area thus producing pain. This usually occurs in the early stages of puberty.
Your Podiatrist or Physiotherapist will assist in diagnosing the injury and the extent of the damage. From this, they will develop a management plan which may include rest or activity modification, soft tissue treatment such as massage and stretching, correction of biomechanics through heel raises or orthoses and the progression through a series of specific strengthening exercises.
Non Surgical Treatment
Treatment depends on the severity of the condition, but may include relative rest and modified activity, a physiotherapist can help work out what, and how much, activity to undertake. Cold packs, apply ice or cold packs to the back of the heels for around 15 minutes after any physical activity, including walking. Shoe inserts, small heel inserts worn inside the shoes can take some of the traction pressure off the Achilles tendons. This will only be required in the short term. Medication, pain-relieving medication may help in extreme cases, but should always be combined with other treatment and following consultation with your doctor). Anti-inflammatory creams are also an effective management tool. Splinting or casting, in severe cases, it may be necessary to immobilise the lower leg using a splint or cast, but this is rare. Time, generally the pain will ease in one to two weeks, although there may be flare-ups from time to time. Correction of any biomechanical issues, a physiotherapist can identify and discuss any biomechanical issues that may cause or worsen the condition. Education on how to self-manage the symptoms and flare-ups of Sever?s disease is an essential part of the treatment.
In some cases, children will simply outgrow Sever's Disease when they reach a certain age, but this does not mean that symptoms should be ignored. If children express that they are in pain, this should always be taken seriously by their parents or guardians. Heel pain may be a sign of Sever's Disease and this condition should not be left untreated, due to the damage it can cause to the growing heel bones. Scheduling a doctor's appointment is always the first step to take in gaining a diagnosis of symptoms and speedy help for the child.