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.
During the growth spurt of early puberty, the heel bone (also called the calcaneus) sometimes grows faster than the leg muscles and tendons. This can cause the muscles and tendons to become very tight and overstretched, making the heel less flexible and putting pressure on the growth plate. The Achilles tendon (also called the heel cord) is the strongest tendon that attaches to the growth plate in the heel. Over time, repeated stress (force or pressure) on the already tight Achilles tendon damages the growth plate, causing the swelling, tenderness, and pain of Sever's disease. Such stress commonly results from physical activities and sports that involve running and jumping, especially those that take place on hard surfaces, such as track, basketball, soccer, and gymnastics.
The most prominent symptom of Sever's disease is heel pain which is usually aggravated by physical activity such as walking, running or jumping. The pain is localised to the posterior and plantar side of the heel over the calcaneal apophysis. Sometimes, the pain may be so severe that it may cause limping and interfere with physical performance in sports. External appearance of the heel is almost always normal, and signs of local disease such as edema, erythema (redness) are absent. The main diagnostic tool is pain on medial- lateral compression of the calcaneus in the area of growth plate, so called squeeze test. Foot radiographs are usually normal. Therefore the diagnosis of Sever's disease is primarily clinical.
Sever's disease is based on the symptoms reported. To confirm the diagnosis, the clinician will examine the heels and ask about the child's activity level and participation in sports. They may also squeeze the back part of the heel from both sides at the same time to see if doing so causes pain and also ask the child to stand on tiptoes to see if that position causes pain. There may be tightness in the calf muscle, which contributes to tension on the heel. Symptoms are usually worse during or after activity and get better with rest. X-rays generally are not that helpful in diagnosing Sever's disease, but they may be ordered to rule out other problems, such as fractures. Sever's disease cannot be seen on an X-ray.
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.