One of the more common limitations to children enjoying their youthful energy is Sever?s Disease. Sever?s Disease is a pathology that affects the heels of children in their high growth years (usually around 9-15), and it can be quite painful. It usually occurs due to repetitive trauma or impact at the heel. This means that if your child spends a lot of time running around (in sports, or just with friends) the continuous impact of his or her heel to the ground can cause this! Usually, most children will complain of heel pain specifically when they are active; these are considered milder cases. In more severe cases the pain may never cease, whether the child is active or not.
With early puberty, the growth plate at the end of the heel develops, transforming cartilage cells into bone cells. This painful heel condition occurs during these growth spurts, when the heel bone grows more rapidly than the muscles and tendons of the leg. The discrepancy between rates of development causes excess pressure and tension to be placed upon the heel and it becomes less flexible. This condition affects active children the most. Due to the amount of exercise, more stress is placed upon the tendons which in turn causes more damage to the growth plate. The bone plates fully mature and harden by the time a child reaches the age of 15.
Symptoms of Sever?s disease, mostly pain at the back of heel, usually occur during and after sporting activity, and usually disappear with rest. In some cases, children may find it difficult to place pressure on their heels, and begin walking on their toes to gain relief. For some children, the heel pain will persist until the next morning, causing some stiffness or hobbling on first arising. Some children may experience mild swelling at the back of the heel.
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
Initially, Sever?s Disease is treated with rest, anti-inflammatory medication and softer shoes. Ice followed by heat is a common practice and heel cup orthotics have worked wonders for our young patients in the past. It can take anywhere from a few weeks to a year for these growth plates to naturally close - at which point Sever?s Disease disappears. Even though the condition does heal on its own, athletes are encouraged to seek treatment, rather than push through the pain. Simply ?dealing with it? and continuing to play sports despite the injury could lead to an impaired gait, a strained hip or a knee injury. Stretches to strengthen the leg muscles, leg compression wraps and over-the-counter acetaminophen or ibuprofen are also recommended treatments. In very rare cases, a podiatrist may recommend wearing a cast for two to twelve weeks.
Severs disease is a self limiting condition that gradually resolves as the patient moves towards skeletal maturity. This usually takes between 6 to 12 months, but may persist for as long as 2 years. With appropriate management, symptoms may resolve in a number of weeks. Patients with Severs disease typically improve gradually over time and full function is restored.