As children reach their growth spurt in early puberty, the heel is one of the first body parts to grow to full size. Because children's bones are growing so fast, the muscles or tendons can't keep up and often become tight. The tight heel tendons can put a lot of stress on the heel, especially if a child is involved in athletics or other weight-bearing activity. Over time, too much pressure on the heel can injure it and result in Sever's disease, also called calcaneal apophysitis.
Sever's disease is caused by repetitive tension and/or pressure on the growth center of the heel. Running and jumping place a large amount of pressure on the heels and can cause pain. Children with Sever's may limp or have an altered gait due to the pain. Risk factors for Sever's include tight calf muscles, weak ankle muscles, and alignment abnormalities at the foot and ankle. Sever's can also result from wearing shoes without sufficient heel padding or arch support.
Adolescents suffering from Sever?s disease usually complain of pain at the back of their heel which is often worse after exercising. It is most common between the ages of 10-12 in boys and 8-10 in girls due to the rapid growth spurts that occur during this time. It can however happen anytime up until the age of 15. Whilst most people present with pain worse in one foot, it is very common to have symptoms in both feet.
A physical exam of the heel will show tenderness over the back of the heel but not in the Achilles tendon or plantar fascia. There may be tightness in the calf muscle, which contributes to tension on the heel. The tendons in the heel get stretched more in patients with flat feet. There is greater impact force on the heels of athletes with a high-arched, rigid foot.
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.
The surgeon may select one or more of the following options to treat calcaneal apophysitis. Reduce activity. The child needs to reduce or stop any activity that causes pain. Support the heel. Temporary shoe inserts or custom orthotic devices may provide support for the heel. Medications. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, help reduce the pain and inflammation. Physical therapy. Stretching or physical therapy modalities are sometimes used to promote healing of the inflamed issue. Immobilization. In some severe cases of pediatric heel pain, a cast may be used to promote healing while keeping the foot and ankle totally immobile. Often heel pain in children returns after it has been treated because the heel bone is still growing. Recurrence of heel pain may be a sign of calcaneal apophysitis, or it may indicate a different problem. If your child has a repeat bout of heel pain, be sure to make an appointment with your foot and ankle surgeon.