Sever's Disease is a serious type of 'growing pain' rooted in the fact that the rate of growth of a child's heel bones is slower than that of the ligaments of the leg. The heel bone is one of the first bones in the human body to reach full size, and it is prone to injury because it is not flexible or elastic. As a child goes through growth spurts of the heel bone, the Achilles tendon, which connects the calf muscle to the heel, may be struggling to play catch-up, due to its slower rate of growth. In this scenario, the tendon and leg muscles can become strained, tight and over-stretched. As the child walks, runs or plays, repetitive pressure is placed on the tendon, and the tension can cause damage to the growing heel bone, resulting in pain and inflammation.
Your 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 8 years to 10 years of age and in physically active boys 10 years to 12 years of age. Soccer players and gymnasts often get Sever's disease, but children who do any running or jumping activity may also be at an increased risk. Sever's disease rarely occurs in older teenagers because the back of the heel has typically finished growing by 15 years of age.
The most obvious sign of Sever's disease is pain or tenderness in one or both heels, usually at the back. The pain also might extend to the sides and bottom of the heel, ending near the arch of the foot. A child also may have these related problems, swelling and redness in the heel, difficulty walking, discomfort or stiffness in the feet upon awaking, discomfort when the heel is squeezed on both sides, an unusual walk, such as walking with a limp or on tiptoes to avoid putting pressure on the heel. Symptoms are usually worse during or after activity and get better with rest.
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
The following are different treatment options. Rest and modify activity. Limit running and high-impact activity to rest the heel and lessen the pain. Choose one running or jumping sport to play at a time. Substitute low-impact cross-training activities to maintain cardiovascular fitness. This can include biking, swimming, using a stair-climber or elliptical machine, rowing, or inline skating. Reduce inflammation. Ice for at least 20 minutes after activity or when pain increases. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may also help. Stretch the calf. Increase calf flexibility by doing calf stretches for 30 to 45 seconds several times per day. Protect the heel. The shoe may need to be modified to provide the proper heel lift or arch support. Select a shoe with good arch support and heel lift if possible. Try heel lifts or heel cups in sports shoes, especially cleats. Try arch support in cleats if flat feet contribute to the problem.
Exercises that help to stretch the calf muscles and hamstrings are effective at treating Sever's disease. An exercise known as foot curling, in which the foot is pointed away from the body, then curled toward the body in order to help stretch the muscles, has also proven to be very effective at treating Sever's disease. The curling exercise should be done in sets of 10 or 20 repetitions, and repeated several times throughout the day.