Though you may never have heard the term Sever’s Disease, as a child you certainly experienced growing pains. And no, we’re not talking about the nickname representing those ‘awkward teenage years.’ Remember those achy calves and painful heels at the end of the day, especially just when you were ready to sleep at night?
Sever’s Disease isn’t literally a disease – it’s an injury suffered mostly by active children during their growth spurts. Particularly those involved in recreational or team sports; such as jogging, gymnastics, soccer, and basketball. Most often, the injury will affect preschoolers and teens; young boys (between 6-15 years of age. We also now see this injury occurring in young girls (8-13 years old) as they have increased their participation in active youth sports.
What exactly is Sever’s Disease?
The medical term for this painful disorder is calcaneal apophysitis, which results from inflammation of the growth plate and its bone (apophysis) when there is persistent stress to your heels. The heel bone grows more rapidly than the tendons, ligaments and muscles of your leg.
So, when they can’t keep up your heel growth these soft tissues are overstretched, leading to pain and swelling at the juncture of heel and tendons. The condition will typically last 2-3 months, though may recur over a period of years until the age of puberty (when the heel is fully grown).
What are the Symptoms of Sever’s Disease?
It’s critical that your child is examined by a podiatrist to be absolutely sure what it is you’re dealing with, and the relevant modifications and remedies to take. While some of the following indications are easy to spot, they may also be representative of additional issues.
- Walking on tiptoes, or limping, to avoid planting your heel on the ground
- Pain, redness, and swelling – in one heel, or both
- Increased heel pain after jumping or running
- Night time pain in heels, calves, and thigh muscles
What is the Treatment for Sever’s Disease?
Consider that this is a specific injury conditional upon physically demanding activities by children from 6-15 years of age. As such, the occurrence of Sever’s Disease can be prevented by delaying or adapting your child’s sports activities, or wearing supportive orthotics recommended by your podiatrist.
- Schedule an exam with your local podiatrist, to make certain the diagnosis is actually Severs disease and not something more severe.
- Apply ice pack to painful heel for 20 minutes 3 times per day. Dr. Auger recommends using a frozen bag of peas or corn which is easier to wrap around the affected area.
- Do daily heel cord stretches (runners’) and other exercises suggested specifically for you by your podiatrist.
- Massage the calf muscles where the pain is felt.
- Wear orthotics (such as heel cushions or cups, or soft sole inserts) to redistribute the weight which is bearing on your heel.
- Take Ibuprofen (Nuprin, Motrin) or naproxen (Alleve) to relieve pain and reduce swelling. On this note: never give aspirin to children as it’s been linked to the life threatening Reye’s syndrome disease. Best practice is to always consult a physician before choosing any OTC medications.
- Short-leg casts are sometimes used when painful symptoms are stubbornly recurrent.
Dr. Elizabeth E. Auger is herself an athlete, and a New Yorker who relocated to Utah for love of the lifestyle. She is not only highly experienced with sports injuries, but is a caring, holistic physician capable of giving her patients the compassion and relief they’re seeking. Same day appointments and 3 locations in the greater Salt Lake City area makes a visit with Dr. Auger convenient for every patient!