Could Your Child Have Sever's Disease?
Sever's disease is a foot condition that can affect children during their adolescent growth spurt. It's a painful heel injury and is typically seen in children who are very physically active. In children, the growth plate in the heel is in two sections that are joined by cartilage, and these two sections join together and harden when children stop growing. Sever's disease causes the cartridge between the two sections of the growth plate to become inflamed. Here's an overview of the causes, symptoms and treatment approach:
Sever's disease is caused by stress from overuse of the heel and high-impact exercise, such as running and playing football, which can cause muscle tightness around the heel. This leads to reduced flexibility and strains the growth plate. Shoes that don't provide appropriate support can also contribute to the development of this condition by putting strain on the surrounding muscles and tendons. Additionally, kids with high or flat foot arches are at an increased risk of Sever's disease, as the foot arch determines how the heel moves when you walk and can cause the Achilles tendon to tighten. This tightness leads to inflammation and reduced flexibility of the heel.
Pain at the back of the heel and along the foot arch is a common symptom of Sever's disease, and the pain tends to worsen when the child is on their feet for any length of time. The heel can also feel tender when squeezed, and some children alter their walk in an attempt to avoid discomfort. Limping and walking on tiptoes can bring relief for some kids.
Sever's disease can be diagnosed by a podiatrist. They will take details of your child's symptoms and examine the heel. The aim of treatment is to reduce the inflammation, which will bring relief from pain and discomfort. Treatment may include the following:
- Medication: If symptoms are severe, anti-inflammatories can be prescribed to kick-start healing.
- Rest: Staying off the affected heel as much as possible will allow the swelling to come down, so your child should refrain from playing sports and doing any high-impact exercise.
- Exercises: Gentle, targeted foot exercises can be used to loosen tight muscles and strengthen the foot, which can prevent recurrences of this condition.
- Orthotic Insoles: Custom-made orthotic insoles can be used to take pressure off the heel until the inflammation subsides. If your child has flat or high foot arches, orthotic insoles can also be used to lift the arches or provide support to the arches, which will take pressure off the rest of the foot.
If you suspect your child has developed Sever's disease, have them assessed by a podiatrist as soon as possible to minimise the time they have to refrain from their favourite sports.