Foot pain is not only limited to grown-ups. Often, healthy and active children will complain of pain in one or both heels shortly after running, engaging in sports or even walking. The pain is centered at the back of, or under the heel. The cause of heel pain in children is usually a condition called calcaneal apophysitis, normally reported by 8 to 14 year olds.
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.
The main symptom of sever’s disease is pain and tenderness at the back of the heel which is made worse with physical activity. Tenderness will be felt especially if you press in or give the back of the heel a squeeze from the sides. There may be a lump over the painful area. Another sign is tight calf muscles resulting with reduced range of motion at the ankle. Pain may go away after a period of rest from sporting activities only to return when the young person goes back to training.
A doctor can usually tell that a child has Sever’s disease based on the symptoms reported. To confirm the diagnosis, the doctor will probably examine the heels and ask about the child’s activity level and participation in sports. The doctor might also use the squeeze test, squeezing the back part of the heel from both sides at the same time to see if doing so causes pain. The doctor might also ask the child to stand on tiptoes to see if that position causes pain. Although imaging tests such as X-rays generally are not that helpful in diagnosing Sever’s disease, some doctors order them to rule out other problems, such as fractures. Sever’s disease cannot be seen on an X-ray.
Non Surgical Treatment
Treatment is initially focused on reducing the present pain and limitations and then on preventing recurrence. Limitation of activity (especially running and jumping) usually is necessary. In Micheli and Ireland’s study, 84% of 85 patients were able to resume sports activities after 2 months. If the symptoms are not severe enough to warrant limiting sports activities or if the patient and parents are unwilling to miss a critical portion of the sport season, wearing a half-inch inner-shoe heel lift (at all times during ambulation), a monitored stretching program, presport and postsport icing, and judicious use of anti-inflammatory agents normally reduce the symptoms and allow continued participation. If symptoms worsen, activity modification must be included. For severe cases, short-term (2-3 weeks) cast treatment in mild equinus can be used.
One of the most important things to know about Sever’s disease is that, with proper care, the condition usually goes away within 2 weeks to 2 months and does not cause any problems later in life. The sooner Sever’s disease is addressed, the quicker recovery is. Most kids can return to physical activity without any trouble once the pain and other symptoms go away.