Sever's Disease: A Cause Of Heel Pain In Children
If your child is limping, having difficulty walking, complaining of pain in their heels upon waking up in the morning or experiencing swelling or redness in the heel, it’s extremely important that you pay attention to their symptoms and seek expert medical help as soon as possible. Heel pain in adolescents is frequently a sign of a condition known as Sever’s Disease (Calcaneal Apophysitis), and while this is not a life-threatening condition, it can lead to debilitating symptoms for your child which should be remedied as quickly as possible. This article provides an easy-to-read introduction to the causes of and treatment options for Sever’s Disease. By educating yourself on this important topic, you will be ready to seek the right help for your child so that he or she can regain their health and be free of pain again.
What Is Sever’s Disease?
Sever’s Disease is a serious type of ‘growing pain’ rooted in the fact that the rate of growth of a child’s heel bones is slower than that of the ligaments of the leg. The heel bone is one of the first bones in the human body to reach full size, and it is prone to injury because it is not flexible or elastic. As a child goes through growth spurts of the heel bone, the Achilles tendon, which connects the calf muscle to the heel, may be struggling to play catch-up, due to its slower rate of growth.
In this scenario, the tendon and leg muscles can become strained, tight and over-stretched. As the child walks, runs or plays, repetitive pressure is placed on the tendon, and the tension can cause damage to the growing heel bone, resulting in pain and inflammation.
Who Is At Risk For Sever’s Disease?
Sever’s Disease typically affects boys and girls between 8-15 years of age. Risk factors include:
- Athletic activity that involves heel contact with hard surfaces, as in gymnastics, track, soccer, basketball, ice skating, ballet and aerobics.
- The wearing of ill-fitting shoes. Well-made shoes that fit properly are a must for every child.
- Prolonged periods of standing. If a child complains of heel pain after choir practice, doing dishes, standing in lines or other activities that put pressure on the heel bones, pay attention.
What Are The Treatment Options For Sever’s Disease?
If your child lets you know that his heels are hurting, schedule a doctor’s appointment. Your family doctor may or may not refer you to a podiatrist. Treatment for Sever’s Disease typically consists of one or more of the following steps:
- Reducing physical activity. Because Sever’s Disease appears to be most common in athletic children, reducing exercise periods will relieve pressure on the heel bones, thereby reducing pain. Your doctor may recommend that your child take a complete break from athletic activity for a set amount of time.
- Icing the heel bones can help to lower both inflammation and pain levels. Use a cold pack or wrap ice in a towel and apply it to the heels.
- A new exercise regimen that involves simple stretches designed to lengthen the calf muscles and tendons.
- Your doctor may prescribe the use of orthotic shoe inserts that will assist your child in maintaining a good level of physical activity. Heel Seats may be an excellent option and have been purchased by many parents as an effective aide for children suffering from Sever’s Disease. Read about Heel Seats here and ask your doctor if they are right for your child’s unique case.
- In extreme cases, a doctor may recommend a plaster cast or boot, but typically only if other less cumbersome solutions fail to reduce pain.
- Some doctors may prescribe anti-inflammatory medications. Never give these to a child yourself, without first seeking a doctor’s advice. Some medications carry the risk of serious side effects for children. Only give medications if specifically prescribed your child’s physician.
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.