At Comprehensive Foot and Ankle Centers, we specialize in treating all kinds of heel pain for patients of all ages. For adults, that often means plantar fasciitis or Achilles tendinitis.
But when the person in pain is a child or adolescent, the most likely explanation is actually a condition called calcaneal apophysitis, otherwise known as Sever’s disease. Don’t let the name fool you—this is not a disease, but a type of overuse injury that uniquely affects children.
Although symptoms tend to be temporary and conservative treatments are almost always effective, it’s still very important to bring your child in to see us if the heel pain is keeping them from fully engaging in their favorite activities. Prompt treatment can help them recover quickly, minimize time away from activities and sports, and prevent future complications!
What Is Sever’s Disease?
During childhood years, bones are still growing—often rapidly. At this time, the ends of many bones are “capped” by an area of relatively soft cartilage responsible for developing new bone tissue. These are, appropriately, called “growth plates.”
One such growth plate is located along the underside of the heel bone, and that puts it in a very vulnerable position. When the growth plate is subjected to repetitive impacts or pressure, it may become inflamed and painful.
Sever’s disease is especially likely to develop in kids and adolescents who are around 8-13 years old, in the middle of a growth spurt, or who run or play sports. However, it can also be triggered by things like poor footwear or obesity.
What Are the Signs of Sever’s Disease?
The pain of Sever’s disease is usually felt along the underside of one or both heels. It tends to get worse after running and jumping and better after rest. Swelling and redness in the area are also common.
One telltale sign of the condition is that pain tends to spike if the sides of the heel are squeezed. Definitely be gentle and exercise caution while testing this!
Unfortunately, children and teenagers aren’t always perfectly forthcoming about their symptoms, especially if they’re afraid of letting teammates down or being taken away from their favorite activities. If you notice signs of limping, walking gingerly, or disengagement from active play, follow up with your child about how their heels are feeling.
How Is Sever’s Disease Treated?
If your child is complaining about heel pain, or is being limited by their symptoms, please bring them in to see the team at Comprehensive Foot and Ankle Centers. We are happy to help!
Sever’s disease can usually be diagnosed by a simple physical examination, although imaging tests may be recommended to rule out stress fractures or other conditions with similar symptoms.
Conservative treatment options are highly successful in the vast majority of cases. Depending on the contributing causes and severity of the injury, we may recommend treatments such as:
- Resting from strenuous physical activities for a few weeks
- Stretches and exercises to reduce tension on the growth plate
- Temporary use of heel cushions, pads, or lifts
- Wearing orthotics, especially in cases where structural problems with the feet are contributing to the condition
In the most severe cases, your child may need to have their foot immobilized in a short cast or walker boot to give the growth plate the protection it needs to fully recover. However, this is rare—particularly if you seek care early.
Preventing the Next Round of Heel Pain
Since kids love to be active and just don’t stop growing, it’s not unusual for Sever’s disease to come back in the future if your child isn’t taking proper precautions.
Our team will happily provide you with clear advice to help reduce the risk of future injury, including training guidelines, footwear recommendations, stretches to perform, etc. We want your child to spend less time in pain and more time playing, having fun, and developing healthy habits that will serve them well for a lifetime!
Once kids stop growing and their bones become fully ossified, the growth plate will be covered by hard bone and will no longer be as vulnerable to injury.
Take Childhood Heel Pain Seriously!
Heel pain is never normal, regardless of how old you are or what your favorite activities may be. If your child is in pain, please don’t wait to set up an appointment with our team. We love working with kids, we know how important their activities are to them, and will work hard to bring them back to full health while minimizing downtime.
Call (816) 455-1155 today to schedule an appointment at any of our six convenient Missouri and Kansas locations!