Heel pain isn’t just a problem for adults. It can affect children, too. The most common source of this pain in kids is called Sever’s disease—and it only affects young ones who are growing. Children’s heel pain can leave your normally-active son or daughter limping and unwilling to run or play as much as he or she used to. The good news is that not only will your child grow out of it, but there are ways you can take care of the pain now and get your child back on his or her feet.
Sever’s disease is a severe name for a common condition. Also, called calcaneal apophysitis, it’s not a disease at all—it’s an injury that affects heel bones that are still growing, which is why it can only affect children. The condition is the result of inflammation and irritation in the heel’s growth plate. When you grow, your bones have a thin line called the growth plate near their ends where new tissue develops and hardens. When your body finishes growing, the entire plate hardens and “closes,” making the bone solid.
Until the plate closes, however, the line is a slightly weaker area of bone and susceptible to pressure. Regular, repeated hard impacts and tension from the Achilles tendon are the two most common causes, which is why Sever’s disease so often affects active children more than inactive ones. The condition is particularly common during growth spurts. The foot bones tend to grow more quickly than the tendons, which then pull on the heel.
Once the heel is inflamed, using the affected foot becomes more difficult for your son or daughter. Your child may complain of discomfort on the back of the foot or underneath the heel. Squeezing the sides of the heel bone will be uncomfortable as well. He or she may limp during activities and not want to participate because of the pain. Even walking will tend to make the problem worse.
The good news is that this overuse injury can be treated and managed—and more than that, when your child’s feet stop growing in his or her mid-teen years, the condition will disappear entirely. A variety of methods will help your child alleviate the pain until that time. Our team at Gulf South Foot & Ankle, LLC, will examine your son or daughter’s lower limbs to accurately diagnose the condition and look for factors that may be influencing it, like overpronation or high arches. Once it is diagnosed, your child can begin treatment.
The key is to reduce the pressure on the heel and eliminate the inflammation. Your son or daughter will need to take a short break from activities that involve lots of running or jumping, like sports. He or she will need to stretch the Achilles tendon daily, too, to loosen that tension on the foot. Supportive footwear and cushioned inserts under the heel may help with pressure there as well. When the heel bone is painful, help your child ice the back of the foot to decrease inflammation and irritation in the growth plate. On rare occasions, your child might need to have his or her foot immobilized temporarily to avoid aggravating the growth plate further.
Sever’s disease doesn’t have to slow down your active child. There are ways you can take care of the problem while your son or daughter is still growing. Our team at Gulf South Foot & Ankle, LLC, can help you make sure your child can continue doing the things he or she loves without pain. Contact us today for an appointment or more information!