Better Me

Your Child’s Heel Pain Could Be Sever’s Disease

“Ow! Mom, my heel really hurts!”

Have you heard this recently from your child?

At some point as a parent, your child will come to you complaining of aches and pains. Growing up can be a pain—literally.

Most kids with growing pains have pain in their thighs, calves, shins or behind the knees. But if your child is complaining of heel pain, it could be related to a condition called Sever’s disease, or calcaneal apophysitis.

Sever’s disease may sounds severe, but it’s actually a very common cause for heel pain in children and adolescents. Read on to learn more about this condition.

What is Sever’s disease?

“Sever’s disease is a common overuse injury of a growth plate in the calcareous bone located in the heel bone,” said Ryan Miller, MD, a pediatric orthopedic specialist with Banner Children’s. “It’s most often related to athletic involvement in children.”

Your child has growth plates between the middle and the end of long bones, such as those in the arms and legs, that allow for them to grow and add width and length to their bones. As they grow, these growth plates become solid bone and eventually close completely at the end of puberty.

Sever’s disease is a condition that causes irritation and inflammation in the growth plate in your child’s heel(s). If your child plays sports, this can put added pressure and strain on this growth plate, leading to pain and swelling in the heels and tendons.

Is my child at greater risk for Sever’s disease?

Sever’s disease is seen in active children between the ages of 8 and 15 years old, but it most commonly occurs in those who participate in recreational or team sports, especially those that are played on hard surfaces and involve lots of jumping. It can also occur as a result of overtraining or from unsupportive shoes.

What are the symptoms of Sever’s disease that I should look out for?

In the early stages of the condition, you may notice your child limping or complaining of sore heels at the end of the activity. As the condition progresses, here are some additional things to look out for:

  • Tenderness in the back of one or both heels
  • Increased heel pain after running or jumping
  • Pain, redness and swelling
  • Pain when getting up in the morning

How is Sever’s disease diagnosed and treated?

It can sometimes be difficult to distinguish Sever’s disease from other foot injuries but being aware of the symptoms allows you to seek help for your child right away.

Your child’s health care provider will gather information about your child’s symptoms and physically examine their feet, pushing on the heels at different points to see where it is painful.

If they confirm Sever’s disease, treatment can be as simple as taking time off from intense activities that cause heel pain.

In addition, your health care provider may also recommend icing the area, stretching out the Achilles, wearing certain heel cushions or cups or soft insoles and taking ibuprofen or naproxen to relieve pain and reduce swelling. In some cases, your child’s health care provider may recommend the use of a walking boot and/or physical therapy.

“With proper rest and activity modifications, Sever’s usually resolves within a couple weeks or months, although some patients can have intermittent pain for a year or more. The good news is that it will always end as growth slows,” Dr. Miller said.

Contact your child’s health care provider

It can be difficult to watch your child in pain. Contact your child’s health care provider if you have any questions or concerns so they can determine whether your child has Sever’s disease or something else and provide guidance and treatment options.

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