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 an osteochondrosis caused by overloading the insertion of the Achilles tendon onto the calcaneus and the apophyseal growth plate in this area. This C-shaped growth zone can become inflamed secondary to repetitive traction stress of the Achilles tendon. Calcaneal apophysitis is a common injury in young athletes and is believed to be caused by running and jumping. Active Children and adolescents (usual age of occurrence 7 to 15 years), particularly during the pubertal growth spurt or at the beginning of a sport season (e.g. gymnasts, basketball and football players), often suffer from this condition. This disease occurs most commonly during the early part of the growth spurt. A boy-to-girl ratio is 2-3:1. None of these causative factors has been tested prospectively and, where tested, none of the measurements has been carried out systematically, and reliability or validity of the measurements has not been considered.
The most prominent symptom of Sever’s disease is heel pain which is usually aggravated by physical activity such as walking, running or jumping. The pain is localized to the posterior and plantar side of the heel over the calcaneal apophysis. Sometimes, the pain may be so severe that it may cause limping and interfere with physical performance in sports. External appearance of the heel is almost always normal, and signs of local disease such as edema, erythema (redness) is absent. The main diagnostic tool is pain on medial- lateral compression of the calcaneus in the area of growth plate, so called squeeze test. Foot radiographs are usually normal. Therefore the diagnosis of Sever’s disease is primarily clinical.
Sever condition is diagnosed by detecting the characteristic symptoms and signs above in the older children, particularly boys between 8 and 15 years of age. Sometimes X-ray testing can be helpful as it can occasionally demonstrate irregularity of the calcaneus bone at the point where the Achilles tendon attaches.
Non Surgical Treatment
Management consists of explanation of what’s happening and advice on activity modification to get it to settle. Icing after activity and heating during breaks in activity also often help. Local treatment with electrotherapy may be indicated in the acute stage or to help settle pain for a specific activity/competition. Stretches will be advised and the child may require orthotics to control foot position. A heel raise or heel cups may also help. Strapping may be of some benefit. The mainstay of treatment however is the icing and activity modification and reassurance that the condition is self-limiting, this may take up to 2 years.
Maintain good flexibility through stretching exercises. Avoid excessive running on hard surfaces. Use quality, well-fitting shoes with firm support and a shock-absorbent sole.