With school starting, we have seen quite a few kids complaining of heel pain after periods of exercise, especially those playing fall sports. Here we explain the likely cause and possible treatment options.
If your preteen or teen complains about their heels hurting, they might have Sever’s disease. No need to stress – it sounds a lot worse than it is. This is just a common growing pain that will gradually go away and won’t leave any long-term damage. But it’s still a good idea to come in and see us, because we can help minimize the discomfort and speed recovery.
Sever’s disease occurs in kids that are hitting their adolescent growth spurt, usually between the age of 8-13 for girls and 10-15 for boys. It’s most common among active kids, particularly those who run a lot or play sports like basketball, soccer or gymnastics. It used to be mostly boys that developed Sever’s disease, but since girls are just about as likely as boys to be involved in sports these days, they’ve evened the score.
Sever’s disease is an inflammation of the growth plate in the heel, which is an area at the end of the developing bone where cartilage gradually turns into bone. That’s how kids’ bones grow.
Parents of teens know that kids at this age tend to shoot up like weeds after a good rainstorm, and their feet grow so fast it’s a challenge to keep them in shoes. The muscles and tendons can barely keep up with this rapid growth spurt, which leaves them tight and overstretched. The Achilles tendon is particularly vulnerable because both the feet and legs grow so quickly that it pulls on the heel’s growth plate and can cause swelling and tenderness. That’s Sever’s disease.
Your child might experience pain, tenderness, swelling or redness in the heel, and they might have difficulty walking or avoid putting pressure on the heel. If they suddenly start walking around on their toes, that’s a dead giveaway.
We treat this with special shoe inserts that act as a shock absorber and slightly elevate the heel to relieve the pain. We also show kids some specific stretches that can help and might recommend rest, applying ice, elevating the foot, and over-the-counter anti-inflammatories.
If your child has heel pain, give us a call right away. We can help them recover quickly so they don’t miss out on too many games!
Here is a great link to the American College of Foot & Ankle Surgeon’s website concerning this condition.