Sever's Disease: Growing Pains in the Feet

Sever's Disease common in active children When your child falls and scrapes their knee, a kiss, a hug, and a Band-Aid will usually do the trick. Given 10 minutes the child will have most likely forgotten about the fall altogether. But what do you do when you can’t find the source of the pain and no bones appear to be broken? Parents of young athletes spend weeks or months worrying over their child’s constant heel pain. Worry no longer! The answer may be Sever’s disease.

What is This Disease?

The name of this bone disorder sounds intimidating, but in fact, it is only temporary and has no long-term effects. This growing pain is very common and generally affects physically active children ages 9 to 14.  Sever’s disease, also known as calcaneal apophysitis, is a painful inflammation or swelling of the growth plate in the heel.

What Causes Sever’s Disease?

This painful heel condition occurs during growth spurts of adolescence. During early puberty, the growth plate at the end of the heel develops, transforming cartilage cells into bone cells. If the heel bone is growing faster than the leg muscles and tendons, tension and pressure is placed on the heel which makes it less flexible. In active children, constant stress on these tendons causes damage to the growth plate. Your child will experience pain until the growth plate hardens and becomes a mature bone by the age of 15. If your child is physically active and wears cleats, this may be the initial cause. Cleats, often worn for soccer, lacrosse and baseball, have a negative heel which allows the Achilles tendon to pull against the growth plate.

What are the Symptoms?

A sure sign of Sever’s disease is pain and tenderness in the back of the foot.  The pain may also extend to the sides or bottom of the heel. Along with these symptoms, there may be pain, swelling, discomfort, and sensitivity to the touch. If your child has difficulty walking, or you notice an unusual gait, they may be avoiding pressure to the heel. These symptoms are usually most prominent during activity or directly following it.

How Can I Treat This Heel Pain?

Symptoms of this bone disorder typically get better with rest. In order to alleviate the painful pressure on the growth plate, your podiatrist will examine the heel and recommend that time be taken off from sports or other physical activity. Physical therapy or stretching exercises are helpful in strengthening the surrounding muscles and tendons. Another method used to alleviate the pain and swelling is to wrap the heel with an ice pack.

The podiatrists at Aadvanced Foot Care Associates of New York want your child to experience the joys and lessons learned from playing sports and staying active. We understand that for many children this disease is unavoidable, but we’re here to help with the healing process! For more information, visit our appointment request page or give us a call at our Rego Park location (718-896-4433), Plainview (516-822-9595) or Flushing (718) 969-2266 office.

Photo Credit: Lusi via RGBStock.com

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