The muscle group at the back of the lower leg is commonly called the calf. The calf comprises of 2 major muscles (known as the gastrocnemius and soleus) both of which insert into the heel bone via the Achilles tendon. In people who have not yet reached skeletal maturity, a growth plate exists where the Achilles tendon inserts into the heel bone. This growth plate is primarily comprised of cartilage. Every time the calf contracts, it pulls on the Achilles tendon which in turn pulls on the heel’s growth plate. When this tension is too forceful or repetitive, irritation to the growth plate may occur resulting in pain and sometimes an increased bony prominence at the back of the heel. This condition is called Severs disease. Severs disease is typically seen in children or adolescents during periods of rapid growth. This is because muscles and tendons become tighter as bones become longer. As a result, more tension is placed on the heel’s growth plate.
There are a number of possible causes for a child’s heel pain. Because diagnosis can be challenging, a foot and ankle surgeon is best qualified to determine the underlying cause of the pain and develop an effective treatment plan. Sever’s disease, also known as calcaneal apophysitis, is by far the most common cause of heel pain in children. Other causes of heel pain include tendo-achilles bursitis, other overuse injuries, and fractures.
Sever’s Disease is most commonly seen in physically active girls and boys from ages 10 to 15 years old. These are the years when the growth plate is still “”open,”” and has not fused into mature bone. Also, these are the years when the growth plate is most vulnerable to overuse injuries, which are usually caused by sports activities. The most common symptoms of this disease include. Heel pain in one or both heels. Usually seen in physically active children, especially at the beginning of a new sports season. The pain is usually experienced at the back of the heel, and includes the following areas. The back of the heel (that area which rubs against the back of the shoe). The sides of the heel. Actually, this is one of the diagnostic tests for Sever’s Disease, squeezing the rear portion of the heel from both sides at the same time will produce pain. It is known as the Squeeze Test.
In Sever’s disease, heel pain can be in one or both heels. It usually starts after a child begins a new sports season or a new sport. Your child may walk with a limp. The pain may increase when he or she runs or jumps. He or she may have a tendency to tiptoe. Your child’s heel may hurt if you squeeze both sides toward the very back. This is called the squeeze test. Your doctor may also find that your child’s heel tendons have become tight.
Non Surgical Treatment
Occasionally, an orthotic may need to be prescribed for temporary or long-term correction of their foot biomechanics (eg flat feet or high arches). During the acute phase of Sever’s disease a small heel rise or shock-absorbing heel cup placed under the heel pad of your child’s foot may help to ease the symptoms. Your podiatrist or physiotherapist can assess your child’s arch and guide you in the best management of your child’s condition. We recommend that your child should never go barefooted during the painful stages of Sever’s disease.