Sever's disease is the most common cause of heel pain in the growing child. It is due to overuse and repetitive stress of the Achilles tendon where it attaches to the heel bone.
Mechanically, the heel takes a beating. And the apophyseal bone is located near the point of impact for the heel bone at heel strike and with most weight bearing activities. This includes running, jumping and walking. Heavy impact activities like soccer, football and gymnastics are commonly associated with this problem. In addition to this, there is traction on this apophyseal bone and the associated physeal line of growth cartilage. This traction on the apopysis (island of bone) along with the impact of weight bearing activities can lead to inflammation and pain. Tight Achilles and calf muscles also can contribute to this problem, and why stretching is discussed later.
The condition can be quite disabling and tends to affect those who are very busy with sporting activities. In the initial stages of the condition, most children displaying signs of Severs disease will tend to hobble or limp off the sports field or court and complain of sore heels near the end of activity. As the condition progresses, children may complain of pain during activity and in severe cases prior to sporting activities. Kids heel pain can be quite discouraging for active children but, early treatment can resolve this type of foot pain in children very quickly.
In Sever's disease, heel pain can be in one or both heels. It usually starts after a child begins a new sports season or a new sport. Your child may walk with a limp. The pain may increase when he or she runs or jumps. He or she may have a tendency to tiptoe. Your child's heel may hurt if you squeeze both sides toward the very back. This is called the squeeze test. Your doctor may also find that your child's heel tendons have become tight.
Non Surgical Treatment
In general, management is along the normal lines for sports injuries. Simply telling an individual to give up his or her chosen sport is not satisfactory (this may be a very talented young footballer who hopes to become a professional). Explain to the child and parent that this is an overuse injury, common in the growing child. It has a good prognosis but it is necessary to ease back on training for a while to let it recover. Offer to talk to the coach. If the parent and coach are one and the same, beware that the child is being 'pushed' too hard. During abstinence from normal training, cardiovascular fitness can be maintained by non-weight-bearing exercise such as swimming or cycling.
With proper care, your child should feel better within 2 weeks to 2 months. Your child can start playing sports again only when the heel pain is gone. Your doctor will let you know when physical activity is safe.