Could Your Child Be Suffering From Sever’s Disease?

It’s no secret that regular activity is an important part of a child’s healthy development. However, running heavily on hard surfaces in sports such as basketball, gymnastics or football can have a negative effect on the health of your child’s feet.

If your child is experiencing heel pain, they could be suffering from a condition called Sever’s disease.

In this article we will cover what Sever’s is, how to recognise the signs that your child is at risk, and give you advice on how to get treatment for this condition.

What is Sever’s disease?
Sever’s disease, also known as calcaneal apophysitis, is a painful condition of the heel of growing children. Whilst it is most common in males aged 8-14 years of age, it can also affect girls.

During puberty, the foot’s growth plate is present and vulnerable to repetitive hard impacts such as running and jumping, particularly on hard floors. When the growth plates of the heel are damaged, the area becomes inflamed, swollen and tender. This condition is known as Sever’s disease.

After puberty, growth plates harden, and developing bones fuse together to create mature bone. Therefore, Sever’s disease is not a long term condition. It is however a painful one.

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Signs your child may be at risk
Sever’s disease is particularly common in active children, with the most obvious sign being pain or tenderness in the heel. This pain usually occurs at the back of the heel. It can also extend to the sides and bottom of the heel.

Other symptoms can include:

  • Swelling or redness of one or both heels
  • Difficulty walking
  • Stiffness and discomfort in the heel after waking up
  • Tightness and tenderness at the back of the heel that feels worse when the area is squeezed
  • Changes in gait including limping or walking on tip toes to avoid the pain
  • Pain that gets worse after exercise but eases after some rest

Treatment for Sever’s disease
Sever’s disease is not something to be pushed through with a ‘no pain, no gain’ attitude. Children with Sever’s need to limit their activity level until the painful symptoms have reduced. It is also important to cease any painful activity as soon as any pain reoccurs. Whilst their child is recovering, parents should consider other activities that don’t put pressure on the heel, such as swimming and cycling.

Other possible treatments include:

  • Elevating and applying ice wrapped in a towel to the heel 2 or 3 times a day to reduce inflammation
  • Performing various foot and leg exercises to stretch and strengthen tendons
  • Wearing a compression bandage to decrease pain and swelling
  • Using orthotics and heel raises to relieve tensile strain along the Achillies tendon and to promote correct foot posture
  • Taking anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen may be considered.

Radial shock wave therapy may also afford some pain relief.

How to prevent Sever’s Disease
The prevention of Sever’s disease lies in maintaining good joint and muscle flexibility in the years leading up to, and during, puberty.

Make sure your child wears good quality, properly fitting shoes that have shock absorption soles to reduce pressure on the feet. Generally speaking shoes with high heels or heavy shoes should be avoided unless the calf muscle is very short.

In addition, foot arch problems such as flat feet should be addressed.

Where to get help
If you are concerned about the development of your child’s feet or if they are experiencing ongoing heel pain, seek professional advice from a podiatrist. Melbourne Podiatrist has two convenient locations in Brunswick and Sandringham and have experienced practitioners who can assess you child.