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.
The foot is one of the first body parts to grow to full size. During the time of growth, bones grow faster than muscles and tendons. This results in the muscles and tendons becoming tight. The strongest tendon that attaches to the heel is the Achilles Tendon. It attaches to the back of the heel at the site of the growth plate, and during sports activities it pulls with great force on the growth plate. If this pull by the tight Achilles Tendon (calf muscle) continues for long periods of time, the growth plate may become inflamed and painful. If exertive activities continue, Sever’s Disease may result.
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 localized 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) is 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 condition is diagnosed by detecting the characteristic symptoms and signs above in the older children, particularly boys between 8 and 15 years of age. Sometimes X-ray testing can be helpful as it can occasionally demonstrate irregularity of the calcaneus bone at the point where the Achilles tendon attaches.
Non Surgical Treatment
See a Podiatrist. Minimise inflammation, by the use of ice, rest and reduction of activity. Minimise pain with the use of anti-inflammatory medications. Shoes have been shown to attenuate shock and reduce impact on the heel. Effective cushioning in the rear through specifcally placed cushioning units, such as GEL under the heel. A 10mm heel gradient that creates a more efficient foot posture and therefore reducing strain on the lower limb. Sever’s is self limiting and only possible when the growth plate is still present, and does not exist once the growth plates have closed. Podiatrists have an important role to play in preventing and managing foot problems. Prompt action is important. Problems which are left without assessment or treatment may result in major health risks.
It is important to undertake correct warm ups and warm downs before and after exercise. This should include a stretching routine. It may be necessary to undertake additional stretching outside of sport, especially during stages of growth. Only playing one sport should be avoided. You should not allow your child to play through pain.