When a preteen or teen complains of heel pain, a frequent diagnosis is Sever’s disease, which sounds much worse than it really is. This common growing pain is relatively short-lived and won’t cause any long-term problems. It can, however, be quite painful; we’ll help relieve the discomfort and speed their recovery.
Sever’s disease is a scary name for the inflammation of the heel’s growth plate, which is a part of the developing bone where cartilage morphs into bone as kids grow taller. When a child grows rapidly, sometimes their muscles and tendons just can’t keep up and they become tight and overstretched. This happens frequently with the Achilles tendon, which connects the calf muscles to the heel. Mix in some pressure caused by an active lifestyle, and it’s too much for the heel’s growth plate — it swells, becomes tender and starts to hurt.
- Heel pain
- Swelling around the heel
- It may hurt when they walk, put any pressure on it or after athletic activities.
The muscles and tendons will eventually lengthen and the pressure will be relieved, but while that process occurs, there are some steps we can take to relieve 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.
Some children, particular active kids who participate in sports, experience Sever’s disease as they hit their adolescent growth spurt. It usually happens between the ages of 8-13 for girls and 10-15 for boys. There is also an increased risk of Sever’s disease among kids with flat feet, high arches, short leg syndrome, over-pronation (feet that roll inward when they walk) or who are overweight or obese.