As you may well know, growing up does not come without some pains. While many of them revolve around feelings and learning the ways of the world, others are physical in nature. The heel pain of Sever’s disease is one such example.
Is your child around the age of 8-14 starting to complain of heel pain, especially during sports or other physical activities? (Or are they not complaining, but you can tell something is bothering them with their feet?)
Sever’s disease may be the culprit—although it’s not the kind of “disease” that is caught or contagious. It’s really more the effects of a growing body catching up to itself.
What Is Sever’s Disease?
Sever’s disease, also known as calcaneal apophysitis, is the most common cause of heel pain in kids.
The heel bone (calcaneus) is undergoing growth as it strives toward full development around the age of 14. It does this by forming new bone at its growth plate, along the back of the heel.
Since it is growing and developing, this area of the heel tends to be weaker than the rest of it. Think of it kind of like cement that hasn’t fully set yet.
While it’s still strong, the growth plate can be more susceptible to inflammation from excess forces and strain than other parts of the heel bone. This is the “disease.”
Inflammation to the growth plate may come from repetitive impacts common to sports such as running, baseball, soccer, or basketball. A tight Achilles tendon pulling constantly on the heel bone can also contribute to the overall stress.
While Sever’s disease tends to be much more common in kids with athletic schedules, any child could potentially suffer from it. It does tend to be more common in boys, and about 60% of overall sufferers have pain in both heels.
The most direct symptom of Sever’s disease will be complaint of pain in the back or bottom of the heel. It’s wise to note, however, that kids may not always be the most forthcoming with this information, for fear of either having to go to the doctor or being pulled from the sports they love.
As a parent or coach, you should be on the lookout for other outward signs of a potential problem, such as:
- Difficulty running or jumping
- Walking or rising onto the toes frequently
- Claiming to be tired or wanting to end activity sooner than usual
- Pain when squeezing the sides of the heel.
How is Sever’s Disease Treated?
Any time your child is experiencing persistent heel pain that does not improve after a couple days, it should be seen by a professional!
While Sever’s disease is the most common cause of heel pain in the 8-14 age bracket, it is not the only one. It is important to rule out separate potential causes such as fractures or other kinds of overuse injuries.
We will be able to help confirm the specific cause of heel pain during an exam, but an imaging test (like an x-ray) may be recommended in some cases to be certain.
If Sever’s disease is to blame, it will most likely mean that activity will have to be reduced or halted temporarily to give the growth plate a chance to recover. This may last a few months, but cutting back often makes the condition feel much better and help guard against the problem happening again in the future.
Additional treatments may include heel cushions to lessen impact on the tender area, icing, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications.
If strain on the growth plate from the Achilles tendon is suspected, stretching in this area will be recommended to help decrease the pressure and strengthen the area.
When proper treatment is allowed, there have never been any long-term problems connected to Sever’s disease.
Heel Pain Treatment for Young and Old
Whether heel pain is the result of overdoing it on the field, standing too long at work, or an abnormal foot shape inherited through your genetics, the El Paso offices of Bruce Scudday are here to help patients find the relief they need!
Contact either of our two offices by phone or fill out our online contact form to schedule an appointment and take the first steps toward pain-free movement!