What is Sever’s Disease?
If your child is complaining of foot or heel pain, they could have a condition called Sever’s Disease, a painful heel condition common among adolescents.
When repetitive stress is placed upon a child’s heel, the growth plate at the back of the heel can become inflamed. This inflammation causes pain, swelling, and irritation in the heel area.
The medical term for Sever’s Disease is calcaneal apophysitis. It was coined Sever’s Disease after James Warren Sever, an American orthopedic doctor who closely studied it in the early 1900s.
While Sever’s Disease sounds serious, concerned parents will be relieved to know that it does not usually cause long-term damage. In fact, Sever’s Disease tends to go away on its own as your child grows.
What are the Symptoms of Sever’s Disease?
An adolescent who has developed Sever’s Disease may experience one or more of the following symptoms:
Heel Pain in One or Both Heels
Your child may express that they are experiencing pain in one heel or both. This pain will likely come and go. It’s essential that you do not ignore any pain your child might be complaining about, but rather get it evaluated as soon as possible.
Pain that Gets Worse During Activities
Since Sever’s Disease is caused by repetitive stress on the heel, the pain is likely to get worse when your child is being physically active—during gym class or while playing sports, for example.
Pain that Causes Limping or Walking on Toes
Adults who have been diagnosed with a heel condition such as plantar fasciitis know that the heel pain can become so severe that it may change the way you walk. Heel pain in kids can cause them to limp or walk on their toes to lessen the pain.
Pain that Worsens When You Run or Jump
Running and jumping are physical activities that put excessive pressure on the heel. If your child plays basketball, soccer, or a similar sport, take note of their pain level while they are on the court or field.
Pain with Pressing on the Back of the Heel
Pressing or squeezing on the back of the heel and hearing an “Ouch!” or other similar exclamation from your child serves as another strong indication of Sever’s Disease.
Pain is Worse When You Wake
Heel pain in kids can become more pronounced after the body has undergone an extended period of rest. Limited movement means that the inflammation worsens overnight.
Who does Sever’s Disease Affect?
Children between the ages of 8-15 are most often diagnosed with Sever’s Disease. The disease seems to be most prominent in children who participate in sports, as well as those going through a growth spurt. Playing sports puts children at an increased risk for Sever’s Disease due to running and jumping-related movements that place added pressure on the heel.
Growth spurts are a healthy, natural occurrence among all children. According to OrthoInfo, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons patient education website, Sever’s Disease is most often triggered by growth spurts.
During a growth spurt, your child will grow taller and gain weight. Their bones, muscles, ligaments, tendons, and other body parts within the musculoskeletal system change rapidly. When the bones grow faster than the tendons can stretch, Sever’s Disease develops.
OrthoInfo’s article about Sever’s Disease states, “The bones of children and adolescents possess a special area where the bone is growing called the growth plate. Growth plates are areas of cartilage located near the ends of bones. When a child is fully grown, the growth plates close and are replaced by solid bone. Until this occurs, the growth plates are weaker than the nearby tendons and ligaments and are vulnerable to trauma.”
This article further notes that Sever’s Disease develops at the back of the heel because “this growth area serves as the attachment point for the Achilles tendon—the strong band of tissue that connects the calf muscles at the back of the leg to the heel bone.”
How to Treat Sever’s Disease
Your child’s growth plate within the heel will eventually close, allowing the pain to subside. In the meantime, there are plenty of helpful ways to treat Sever’s Disease at home. They include:
If your child enjoys being physically active and is full of energy, it may be difficult to convince them to embrace the idea of resting for an extended period of time. It’s important to know, however, that rest can go a long way in terms of alleviating heel pain in kids.
Applying an ice pack that’s wrapped in a cloth or towel to your child’s heel can provide relief from heel pain. The coldness works well to numb the area, reduce inflammation, and relieve pain, swelling, and tenderness. Ice should be applied for 15 to 20 minutes at a time.
Anti-inflammatory medications can also reduce inflammation, and these can be used as needed. Before administering any medications to your child, be sure to double-check the dosage instructions.
Ideal shoes for a child with Sever’s Disease offer plenty of cushioning underneath the heel and support around the arch. In addition, your child’s shoes should fit well. Proper footwear can lessen the strain and decrease the pressure in the back of the heel area.
Your child could benefit from a daily stretching regimen that targets the calf muscles. Stretching can relieve the pressure being placed on your child’s heel. Sever’s Disease stretches to reduce heel pain in kids include seated and standing calf stretches, among others.
When to Come See Our Doctors
Symptoms of Sever’s Disease can be painful, especially for children with low pain tolerance. For some children, Sever’s Disease disrupts their fit and active lifestyle, which can be frustrating and upsetting.
No parent wants to see their child in pain. If you have tried the above treatment methods but your child still complains of heel pain, consider making an appointment with our doctors as soon as possible.
Contact Us for Family-Friendly Foot Care!
Third Coast Foot and Ankle fosters a warm, caring, and stress-free environment for patients of all ages. Our podiatrists, Dr. Lucy Meier and Dr. Amy Miller-Guhl, can accurately diagnose Sever’s Disease and create the most suitable and results-driven treatment plan to address your child’s symptoms. As mothers themselves, Dr. Meier and Miller-Guhl will do everything they can to make your child feel comfortable throughout the appointment.
Please reach out to Third Coast Foot and Ankle so your child can receive a thorough evaluation in one of our convenient locations. You can reach our Oak Creek office by calling 414-764-4500 and our New Berlin office by calling 262-821-1588. If you prefer to contact us online, please complete our contact form on our website.