During a growth spurt, your child?s heel bone grows faster than the muscles, tendons, and ligaments in her leg. In fact, the heel is one of your child?s first body parts to reach full adult size. When the muscles and tendons can?t grow fast enough to keep up, they are stretched too tight. If your child is very active, especially if she plays a sport that involves a lot of running and jumping on hard surfaces (such as soccer, basketball, or gymnastics), it can put extra strain on her already overstretched tendons. This leads to swelling and pain at the point where the tendons attach to the growing part of her heel.
A child is most at risk for this condition when he or she is in the early part of the growth spurt in early puberty. Sever?s disease is most common in physically active girls eight to ten years old and in physically active boys ten to twelve years old. Soccer players and gymnasts often get Sever?s disease, but children who do any running or jumping activity may be affected. Sever?s disease rarely occurs in older teenagers, because the back of the heel has finished growing by the age of fifteen.
Signs and symptoms of Sever?s disease include heel pain can be in one or both heels, and it can come and go over time. Many children walk or run with a limp, they may walk on their toes to avoid pressure on their heels. Heel pain may increase with running or jumping, wearing stiff, hard shoes (ex. soccer cleats, flip-flops) or walking barefoot. The pain may begin after increasing physical activity, such as trying a new sport or starting a new sports season.
In Sever’s disease, heel pain can be in one or both heels. It usually starts after a child begins a new sports season or a new sport. Your child may walk with a limp. The pain may increase when he or she runs or jumps. He or she may have a tendency to tiptoe. Your child’s heel may hurt if you squeeze both sides toward the very back. This is called the squeeze test. Your doctor may also find that your child’s heel tendons have become tight.
Non Surgical Treatment
Ice the heel(s) well after exercise (until the area is cold and numb!) Stretch hamstring and calf muscles 2-3 times daily (exercises below) REST when pain becomes persistent or moderate (even if it means skipping games or practices.) Anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen. If symptoms persist, your child may need to see a physical therapist for additional exercises, and/or an orthopedist for othotics or temporary casting/crutches if pain is severe. Sever?s disease is self-recovering, meaning that it will go away on its own when the heels are rested or when the bone is through growing. The condition is not expected to create any long-term disability, and expected to subside in 2-8 weeks. However, pain can recur, for example at the start of a new sports season, several times if it is not taken care of.
Sever?s disease may be prevented by maintaining good flexibility while your child is growing. The stretching exercises mentioned here can lower your child?s risk for injuries during the growth spurt. Good-quality shoes with firm support and a shock-absorbent sole will help. Your child should avoid excessive running on hard surfaces. If your child has already recovered from Sever?s disease, stretching and putting ice on the heel after activity will help keep your child from getting this condition again.