Sever's Disease is a serious type of 'growing pain' rooted in the fact that the rate of growth of a child's heel bones is slower than that of the ligaments of the leg. The heel bone is one of the first bones in the human body to reach full size, and it is prone to injury because it is not flexible or elastic. As a child goes through growth spurts of the heel bone, the Achilles tendon, which connects the calf muscle to the heel, may be struggling to play catch-up, due to its slower rate of growth. In this scenario, the tendon and leg muscles can become strained, tight and over-stretched. As the child walks, runs or plays, repetitive pressure is placed on the tendon, and the tension can cause damage to the growing heel bone, resulting in pain and inflammation.
This condition is more common in boys than girls. It generally presents between the ages of 9-14 and peaks between ages 10-12 years. This injury can reoccur up until the age of 17, when the growth plate of the calcaneous generally closes. These types of injuries will commonly occur during periods of rapid growth. Sever?s Disease occurs more frequently in child with flat feet, but all children with flat feet will not get Sever?s.
Often the condition is self limiting; meaning as the growth plate fuses to the rest of the heel bone, the pain will subside. However in some cases the child will have so much discomfort that they will be unable to walk comfortably if left untreated. Therefore, heel pain in children should always by evaluated by a physician.
To diagnose the cause of the child?s heel pain and rule out other more serious conditions, the foot and ankle surgeon obtains a thorough medical history and asks questions about recent activities. The surgeon will also examine the child?s foot and leg. X-rays are often used to evaluate the condition. Other advanced imaging studies and laboratory tests may also be ordered.
Non Surgical Treatment
See a doctor, who can diagnose the injury and recommend appropriate treatment options. It will be beneficial to rest the affected heel, and to regularly ice the affected area for the first few days. Anti-inflammatory pain medication can reduce pain and swelling, but first check with your doctor. As the pain diminishes a physical therapist can assist with a program of rehabilitation, incorporating stretching and strengthening exercises focused on the calf, shin and hamstring muscles. For a period after the injury has healed the doctor may advise on changes to your training routines that seek to lessen the strain on the heels. Orthotics are often recommended for your shoes in order to correct any biomechanical problems or lend extra support to the heels.
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