Sever’s Disease: Young Athletes and Growing Pains

Kids might complain about what’s for dinner, or whine if they don’t get their way, but if they start complaining about their heels hurting, well that’s something parents shouldn’t dismiss. The likely culprit is Sever’s disease, commonly present in active kids going through a growing spurt. Take heart, though, that like talking back and rolling their eyes, this cause of heel pain in kids is a phase, and it too shall pass!

Don’t Worry: The Name is Deceiving

Sever’s disease is not actually a disease, but rather a condition in which the heel bone grows faster than the muscles and tendons attached to it. In fact, it might be more accurate to simply call it “growing pains.”  The heel plate’s growth pulls the shorter muscles and tendons tight, causing a loss of flexibility, increased pressure, and pain. Eventually, the muscles and tendons will catch up and symptoms will subside once your child has stopped growing. In the meantime, there are things you can do to ease discomfort and help your young athlete stay happy and active. First, though, you need to spot the signs.

Spotting the SignsThat heel pain could be Sever's disease

Although sometimes it seems like kids complain about everything, they may not actually let on that their heels are hurting. If you’re normally active child is suddenly not as interested in participating in activities or you notice he or she has acquired a limp, these are both signs that Sever’s disease (medically known as Calcaneal Apophysitis) is causing your child pain. Other symptoms include tenderness to the touch and swelling in the back and sides of the heel, as well as difficulty merely standing, much less walking, running, or jumping.

Since the symptoms worsen with continuous stress placed on the feet, wearing cleats and participating in sports, especially those played on hard surfaces, can exasperate the problem. We know what you’re thinking: It’s hard to keep an active child down! However, you don’t necessarily have to – at least not completely.

Easing the Pain

While rest is best, it’s okay to partake in low-impact activities, which will help your child stay active without adding to his or her pain. Sign up for swim lessons, go for a bike ride, introduce your kids to yoga, or break out the kayak. These are all great options to keep your kids moving while they recover. Applying ice can help with pain, too, and anti-inflammatory medication and elevating the feet can both aid in reducing swelling. It’s a good idea to use heel pads or custom orthotics in your child’s shoes for added cushion and support, as well as for redirecting pressure away from the area. Finally, there are stretches to help with tight calves and Achilles tendons, and massage can loosen and limber up the muscles, too.

Getting Back in the Game

Once symptoms diminish, make sure your child gradually returns to activity – jumping in full throttle can result in further injury! Also, invest in good footwear that offers plenty of cushion and support, and not only fits your son or daughter’s feet, but the sport as well.

If you are noticing signs of heel pain in your kids, be sure to make an appointment with us so we can determine the reason for it, and begin an appropriate treatment plan. You can reach our Roselle Park, NJ office at (908) 687-5757, or dial (609) 924-8333 for our Princeton location. We can’t do anything about the “what’s for dinner?” complaints, but heel pain from Sever’s disease? We’ve got your back!