Heel pain is common in children. While it can occur after a specific injury, it is also commonly caused by Sever's disease, a type of overuse syndrome, like shin splints or Osgood-Schlatter?s
disease. Children with Sever's disease, which is also called calcaneal apophysitis, develop inflammation where the Achilles tendon inserts at the calcaneus, or heel bone. This inflammation causes
pain, which can vary depending on the type of activity your child is doing, and is generally worse after activity(such as running and jumping) and improves with rest. Sometimes squeezing the heel can
cause pain and occasionally it can be felt under the heel.
The heel bone sometimes grows faster than the leg muscles (including the calf muscles) and tendons (including the Achilles tendon) during the early puberty growth spurt. The different growth rate in
these structures can cause lower leg muscles and tendons to become overstretched and tight, which makes the heel less flexible and puts excessive pressure on the heel growth plate. The Achilles
tendon, the strongest tendon in the body, attaches to the heel growth plate, and repetitive stress on this structure, especially if it?s already tight, can damage the growth plate, leading to
tenderness, swelling, and pain. Activities that involve running or jumping, such as soccer, gymnastics, track, and basketball, can place significant stress on a tight Achilles tendon and contribute
to the onset of Sever?s disease. Ill-fitting shoes can also contribute to this health problem by failing to provide the right kind of support or by rubbing against the back of heel. The following
factors may increase the likelihood of Sever?s disease in kids or young teens. Wearing footwear that is too narrow in the toe box. Leg length inequality. Obesity or carrying excess bodyweight.
Excessive foot and ankle pronation.
Sever?s disease is a clinical diagnosis based on the youth?s presenting symptoms, rather than on diagnostic tests. While x-rays may be ordered in the process of diagnosing the disease, they are used
primarily to rule out bone fractures or other bone abnormalities, rather than to confirm the disease. Common Characteristics of Sever?s Disease include Posterior inferior heel pain. Pain is usually
absent when waking in the morning. Increased pain with weight bearing, running, or jumping (or activity-related pain). Area often feels stiff or inflexible. Youth may limp at the end of physical
activity. Tenderness at the insertion of the tendons. Limited ankle dorsiflexion range that is secondary to tightness of the Achilles tendon. Activity or sport practices on hard surfaces can also
contribute to pain, as well as poor quality shoes, worn out shoes, or the wrong shoes for the sport. Typically, the pain from this disease gradually resolves with rest.
Your Podiatrist or Physiotherapist will assist in diagnosing the injury and the extent of the damage. From this, they will develop a management plan which may include rest or activity modification,
soft tissue treatment such as massage and stretching, correction of biomechanics through heel raises or orthoses and the progression through a series of specific strengthening exercises.
Non Surgical Treatment
Podiatrists have an important role in the provision of orthotics to young sufferers of Severs? disease. Orthotics are specialised insoles designed to accommodate problems with the foot. In this
particular condition?s case, orthotics are an effective way of making sure that the heel is cushioned in such a way as to reduce a child?s discomfort and alleviate some of the pressure of walking,
thereby facilitating the recovery process. Young athletes can benefit from a visit to a podiatrist to learn about prevention and to have orthotics fitted to prevent Severs? disease from developing.
Regular stretching to keep joints supple and loose are a great preventative measure, as is making sure that appropriately fitted and supportive shoes (often equipped with orthotics) are used to
prevent future injury.
It may take several weeks or months for the pain to completely stop. In most cases severs disease goes away on its own with a little rest and time. However if you ignore the pain and play through it,
the condition may get worse and may be more difficult to treat. When the pain is completely gone, you can slowly return to your previous level of activity. With future growth spurts the pain may
return therefore keep up with the stretches and follow the advice given.