Heel pain is common in children. While it can occur after a specific injury, it is also commonly caused by Sever's disease, a type of overuse syndrome, like shin splints or Osgood-Schlatter?s disease. Children with Sever's disease, which is also called calcaneal apophysitis, develop inflammation where the Achilles tendon inserts at the calcaneus, or heel bone. This inflammation causes pain, which can vary depending on the type of activity your child is doing, and is generally worse after activity(such as running and jumping) and improves with rest. Sometimes squeezing the heel can cause pain and occasionally it can be felt under the heel.
Sever?s disease is directly related to overuse of the bone and tendons in the heel. This can come from playing sports or anything that involves a lot of heel movement. It can be associated with starting a new sport, or the start of a new season. Children who are going through adolescence are also at risk of getting it because the heel bone grows quicker than the leg. Too much weight bearing on the heel can also cause it, as can excessive traction since the bones and tendons are still developing. It occurs more commonly in children who over-pronate, and involves both heels in more than half of patients.
Sever's disease usually develops gradually. The pain from Sever's disease is often intermittent and localized to the area where the Achilles tendon attaches to the calcaneus. Swelling may be noted in this area. There can be tenderness on squeezing the calcaneus or pain when trying to stretch the calf muscles. Occasionally there is night pain. As Sever's disease progresses there can be continuous pain.
Sever?s disease is diagnosed based on a doctor?s physical examination of the lower leg, ankle, and foot. If the diagnosis is in question, the doctor may order x-rays or an MRI to determine if there are other injuries that may be causing the heel pain.
Non Surgical Treatment
There are several things we can do to treat Sever?s disease and ease the discomfort. Special shoe inserts, such as heel pads or cups, can act as a shock absorber, decrease pressure on the heel bone and slightly elevate the heel to relieve the pain. Elastic wraps and compression stockings can help decrease any swelling and pain. We also show kids some specific stretches that can help stretch the calf muscles and tendons on the back of the leg to reduce stress on the heel. We might also recommend rest, applying ice, elevating the foot, and over-the-counter pain medication.