The most common cause of heel pain in children is due to the disturbance or damage of the growth plate at the rear of the heel bone (Calcaneus). This condition is known as Sever?s disease or calcaneal apophysis. It occurs when an increased load is placed on the back of the heel from tension in the calf muscles, causing stress on the cartilaginous joint between the calcaneus and apophysis (growth plate). The condition is self-limiting and will cease when the two parts of the heel bone fuse together, however this may take up to a couple of years in some cases. There is no identified long term complications associated with Sever?s disease. Nevertheless, it is a painful condition that needs treatment when active to reduce pain levels and maintain activity levels of the child until the heel bone fuses into an adult bone.
Sever?s disease is common, and typically occurs during a child?s growth spurt, which can occur between the ages of 10 and 15 in boys and between the ages of 8 and 13 in girls. Feet tend to grow more quickly than other parts of the body, and in most kids the heel has finished growing by the age of 15. Being active in sports or participating in an activity that requires standing for long periods can increase the risk of developing Sever?s disease. In some cases, Sever?s disease first becomes apparent after a child begins a new sport, or when a new sports season starts. Sports that are commonly associated with Sever?s disease include track, basketball, soccer, and gymnastics. Children who are overweight or obese are also at a greater risk of developing this condition. Certain foot problems can also increase the risk, including. Over pronating. Kids who over pronate (roll the foot inward) when walking may develop Sever?s disease. Flat foot or high arch. An arch that is too high or too low can put more stress on the foot and the heel, and increase the risk of Sever?s disease. Short leg. Children who have one leg that is shorter than the other may experience Sever?s disease in the foot of the shorter leg because that foot is under more stress when walking.
Symptoms include complaints of pain or tenderness in the heel (or heels), discomfort when heel is squeezed, limping, and more severe pain after walking, running or playing sports. Sever?s disease is directly related to overuse of the bone and tendons in the heel. This can come from playing sports or anything that involves lots of heel movements and hard shoes such as cleats. It can be associated with starting a new sport, or the start of a new season. It occurs more commonly in children who pronate (feet roll inward), and involves both heels in more than half of patients.
All medical diagnosis should be made by taking a full history, examining the patient then performing investigations. The problem usually occurs in boys who are going through or have just gone through a growth spurt; one or both heels may be affected. Initially the pain may be intermittent occurring only during or after exercise. As the problem gets worse, pain may be present most of the time. There may be swelling over the back of the heel and this area is painful if touched or knocked. On examination the patient often has flat feet, very tight legs muscles especially the gastrocnemius.
Non Surgical Treatment
Your podiatrist can help manage this condition by implementing a treatment program. This may incorporate one or all of the following. RI (Rest and Ice). Activity modification so child becomes pain free. Daily stretching routine. Heel raise within shoes to decrease pull on heel. Biomechanical abnormalities corrected (Orthotics). Strengthening of associated muscles. Footwear modification.
Sever's Disease may be prevented by maintaining good flexibility while the child is growing. The stretching exercises can help lower the risk for injuries during a growth spurt. Having good quality shoes with firm support and a shock-absorbent sole will also help. Child should also avoid excessive running on hard surfaces.