Heel pain, swelling and tenderness can be a sign of Sever’s Disease, an inflammation of the growth plate of the heel. Known officially as calcaneal apophysitis, Sever’s Disease isn’t really a disease at all. It is an injury that frequently affects children 8-14 years old and one we see fairly often at Lansdowne Podiatry. Up until around the age of 14, the growth plate is continuing to develop with new bone growth occurring at the growth plate, making it a weak area at the back of the heel and susceptible to injury.
What Causes Sever’s Disease
The most common cause of Sever’s Disease is overuse and stress on the heel due to repetitive pounding usually found in sports. This results in the growth plate becoming inflamed and painful. Children who spend a lot of time in cleats and/or play high-impact sports such as soccer, basketball, gymnastics and track are particularly prone to this injury. Other factors that can increase the risk of Sever’s Disease include:
- Faulty biomechanical issues, such as flatfeet or high arches
- Tight Achilles tendon
When you bring your child to get the heel pain evaluated, Dr. Monique Renee Rolle will gently examine your child’s foot and leg. A complete medical history will be taken and the foot doctor will want to know about recent activities your child has participated in and when you first noticed the symptoms. X-rays and other imaging studies may be ordered to rule out other conditions which also have heel pain as a major symptom. Once the podiatrist is sure of the diagnosis of Sever’s Disease, the correct course of treatment will be decided upon.
Fortunately Sever’s Disease has no permanent effects. The foot doctor will look to relieve your child’s symptoms by one or more of the following treatments:
- It’s important to give the growth plate a chance to heal. This means activities aggravating the condition will need to be temporarily stopped.
- Physical therapy and stretching. Exercises to stretch the muscles and strengthen the lower leg tendons and muscles help relieve symptoms.
- Heel support. Padding or custom orthotics may be prescribed to protect the heel when activity resumes.
- The foot doctor may also recommend nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen, as well as icing the heel to reduce pain and inflammation.
If your child complains for more than a day or two, make an appointment at our Leesburg office. Like many adult conditions, continuing to walk or play on an injured foot will only make it worse. Early treatment means your child will be back on the playing field sooner and, most importantly, pain-free.