Sever's disease, also known as calcaneal apophysitis, is a medical condition that causes heel pain in children’s feet while they’re growing. Sever's disease occurs most commonly in boys and girls between the ages of 8 and 14.
Sever's disease occurs when the child’s growth plate, or the calcaneal epiphysis, an area attached to the Achilles tendon, is injured or when the muscles and tendons of the growing foot do not keep pace with bone growth. The result is constant pain experienced at the back of the heel and the inability to put any weight on the heel. This forces the child to bear weight on their toes while walking. When a toe gait develops, the child must change the way they walk to avoid placing weight on the painful heel. If this is not properly addressed, this can lead to further developmental problems.
The most common symptom of Sever's disease is acute pain felt in the heel when a child engages in physical activity such as walking, jumping or running. Children who are active athletes are among the group most susceptible to experiencing Sever's disease. This is due to the extreme stress and tension placed on their growing feet. The rolling movement of the foot during walking or running and obesity are both additional conditions linked to causing Sever's disease.
The first step in treating Sever's disease is to rest the foot and leg and avoid physical activity. Over the counter pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory medications can be helpful for reducing the amount of heel pain. A child with Sever's disease should also wear shoes that properly support the heel and the arch of the foot. Consider purchasing orthotic shoe inserts which can help support the heel and foot while it is healing. Most patients with Sever's disease symptoms report an eventual elimination of heel pain after wearing orthotic insoles that support the affected heel.
Sever's disease may affect either one heel or both. It is important for a child experiencing heel pain to be examined by a foot doctor who can apply the squeeze test. The squeeze test compresses both sides of the heel in order to determine if there is intense pain. Discourage any child diagnosed with Sever's disease from going barefoot as this can intensify the problem. Apply ice packs to the affected painful heel two or three times a day for pain relief.
Exercises that help stretch the calf muscles and hamstrings are effective at treating Sever's disease. An exercise known as foot curling has also proven to be very effective at treating Sever's disease. When foot curling, the foot is pointed away from the body, then curled toward the body to help stretch the muscles. The curling exercise should be done in sets of 10 or 20 repetitions and repeated several times throughout the day.
Treatment methods can continue for at least 2 weeks and as long as 2 months before the heel pain completely disappears. A child can continue doing daily stretching exercises for the legs and feet to prevent Sever’s disease from returning.