When recurring heel pain occurs in children, it is usually due to Sever's Disease, while adult heel pain is usually due to heel spurs, plantar fasciitis, or retrocalcaneal bursitis (Haglund's Deformity). Calcaneus is the anatomical name of the heel bone. Sever's Disease or Calcaneal Apophysitis is an inflammation of the growth plate located at the posterior aspect (back) of the heel.
There are several factors which may increase the likelihood of developing this condition. These need to be assessed and corrected with direction from a physiotherapist to ensure an optimal outcome. Some of these factors include inappropriate footwear, calf tightness and/or weakness, joint stiffness (particularly the foot and ankle), poor lower limb biomechanics, inappropriate or excessive training, inadequate recovery periods from training or activity, inappropriate training surfaces, inadequate warm up, poor core stability, a lack of lower limb strength and stability, poor proprioception or balance, rapid growth and age.
Chief complaint is heel pain which increases pain during running and jumping activities. Pain is localized to the very posterior aspect of the heel. Pain is elicited only with weightbearing. Mild involvement is present if pain is brought on only with running during sports. The symptoms can be severe, with pain (and possibly limp) with activities of daily living (ie walking).
Sever?s disease can be diagnosed based on your history and symptoms. Clinically, your physiotherapist will perform a "squeeze test" and some other tests to confirm the diagnosis. Some children suffer Sever?s disease even though they do less exercise than other. This indicates that it is not just training volume that is at play. Foot and leg biomechanics are a predisposing factor. The main factors thought to predispose a child to Sever?s disease include a decrease in ankle dorsiflexion, abnormal hind foot motion eg overpronation or supination, tight calf muscles, excessive weight-bearing activities eg running.
Non Surgical Treatment
See a Podiatrist. Minimise inflammation, by the use of ice, rest and reduction of activity. Minimise pain with the use of anti-inflammatory medications. Shoes have been shown to attenuate shock and reduce impact on the heel. Effective cushioning in the rear through specifcally placed cushioning units, such as GEL under the heel. A 10mm heel gradient that creates a more efficient foot posture and therefore reducing strain on the lower limb. Sever's is self limiting and only possible when the growth plate is still present, and does not exist once the growth plates have closed. Podiatrists have an important role to play in preventing and managing foot problems. Prompt action is important. Problems which are left without assessment or treatment may result in major health risks.
One of the most important things to know about Sever's disease is that, with proper care, the condition usually goes away within 2 weeks to 2 months and does not cause any problems later in life. The sooner Sever's disease is addressed, the quicker recovery is. Most kids can return to physical activity without any trouble once the pain and other symptoms go away.