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Sever’s disease or calcaneal apophysitis heel pain is a common problem with children between the ages of 8 to 13 years. It has usually been more common in boys, but with the increase of girls in athletic activities, both sexes are having equal symptoms. A high percentage of these children have tight achilles tendons and hamstrings. This condition may occur in the foot with normal arch height or flat or pronated foot, but can be especially painful in the high arch foot.
Heel pain is very common in children due to the fact they are cnstantly growing. In most children, the heel bone (the calcaneus) is not fully developed until the age of 14 or older. Until then, new bone is forming at the growth plate of the foot (the apophysis, located at the back of the heel), an area which is softer than others due to its role in accommodating the growth. Repetitive stress on the growth plate due to walking, running and sports causes inflammation in the heel area. Because the heel’s growth plate is sensitive, repeated running and pounding on hard surfaces can result in pediatric heel pain. Children and adolescents who take part in a lot of sport are especially vulnerable. Over-pronation (fallen arches and rolling inwards of the feet) will increase the impact on the growth plate and is therefore a significant cause and a major contributing factor to heel pain in children.
Most children with Sever’s complain of pain in the heel that occurs during or after activity (typically running or jumping) and is usually relieved by rest. The pain may be worse when wearing cleats. Sixty percent of children’s with Sever’s report experiencing pain in both heels.
To diagnose the cause of the child?s heel pain and rule out other more serious conditions, the foot and ankle surgeon obtains a thorough medical history and asks questions about recent activities. The surgeon will also examine the child?s foot and leg. X-rays are often used to evaluate the condition. Other advanced imaging studies and laboratory tests may also be ordered.
Non Surgical Treatment
The treatment of Sever’s disease should be individualized. The most important first steps in the treatment of Sever’s disease are activity modification (including rest and sometimes crutches) and good shoes. Further treatment may include icing to decrease pain around the calcaneal apophysis, stretching and strengthening exercises, shoe orthotics or medications to relieve pain. Rarely, a removable cast is necessary to completely rest the foot.
If the child has a pronated foot, a flat or high arch, or another condition that increases the risk of Sever’s disease, the doctor might recommend special shoe inserts, called orthotic devices, such as heel pads that cushion the heel as it strikes the ground, heel lifts that reduce strain on the Achilles tendon by raising the heel, arch supports that hold the heel in an ideal position. If a child is overweight or obese, the doctor will probably also recommend weight loss to decrease pressure on the heel. The risk of recurrence goes away on its own when foot growth is complete and the growth plate has fused to the rest of the heel bone, usually around age 15.