This is the final part of the series featuring issues surrounding children. While being overly paranoid does not make sense, taking precautions and having your kids checked out is the right approach, if anything odd is occurring or pops up.
What Is It?
Growing pains may sound like an old wives’ tale. In the case of Sever’s disease though, your child’s growth spurt can lead to serious pain. It is a painful inflammation of the heel’s growth plate. Usuaally, it affects children between the ages of 8 and 15 years old, because the heel bone is not fully developed until at least age 14. Until then, new bone is forming at the growth plate, a weak area located at the back of the heel. When there is too much repetitive stress on the growth plate, inflammation can develop.
Sever’s disease, also called Calcaneal apophysitis, is not a true“disease”but a heel injury. It is the most common cause of heel pain in children, and can occur in one or both feet. Heel pain in children differs from the most common type of heel pain experienced by adults. While heel pain in adults usually subsides after a period of walking, paediatric heel pain generally doesn’t improve in this manner. In fact, walking tends to makes the pain worse.
What Causes It?
During a growth spurt, your child’s heel bone grows faster than the muscles, tendons, and ligaments in their leg. In fact, the heel is one of your child’s first body parts to reach full adult size. When the muscles and tendons can’t grow fast enough to keep up, they are stretched too tight.
If your child is very active, especially if they play a sport that involves a lot of running and jumping on hard surfaces (such as soccer, basketball, or gymnastics), it can put extra strain on their already overstretched tendons. This leads to swelling and pain at the point where the tendons attach to the growing part of their heel.
How Does It Affect Your Child?
Sever’s disease is more common in boys. They tend to have later growth spurts, between the ages of 10 and 15. In girls, it usually happens between 8 and 13.
Symptoms can include:
- – Pain, swelling, or redness in one or both heels
- – Tenderness and tightness in the back of the heel that feels worse when the area is squeezed
- – Heel pain that gets worse after running or jumping, and feels better after rest. The pain may be especially bad at the beginning of a sports season or when wearing hard, stiff shoes.
- – Trouble walking
- – Walking or running with a limp or on tip toes.
How Is It Treated?
The good news is that the condition doesn’t cause any long-term foot problems. Symptoms could go away after a few months. The best treatment is simply rest. Your child will need to stop, or cut down on sports until the pain gets better. When they are well enough to return to their sport, have them build up their playing time gradually.
Your doctor/podiatrist may also recommend:
- – Ice packs or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen or naproxen, to relieve the pain
- – Supportive shoes and inserts that reduce stress on the heel bone. These can help if your child has another foot problem that aggravates Sever’s disease, such as flat feet or high arches.
- – Stretching and strengthening exercises, perhaps with the help of a physical therapist
- – In severe cases, your child may need a cast so their heel is forced to rest.
Can It Be Prevented?
Once your child’s growth spurt ends, and they have reached full size, their Sever’s disease won’t return. Until then, the condition can happen again if your child stays very active.
Some simple steps can help prevent it. Have your child:
- – Wear supportive, shock-absorbing shoes.
- – Stretch their calves, heels, and hamstrings.
- – Not overdo it. Warn against over-training, and suggest plenty of rest, especially if they begin to feel pain in their heel.
- – Try to avoid lots of running and pounding on hard surfaces.
- – Lose those extra pounds, if they are overweight, since it can increase pressure on their heels.
Your feet mirror your general health . . . cherish them!