Sever’s disease is the most common cause of heel pain in the growing athlete and is due to overuse and repetitive microtrauma of growth plates in the heel. It usually occurs during the growth spurt of adolescence, the approximately 2-year period in early puberty when kids grow most rapidly. This growth spurt can begin any time between the ages of 8 and 13 for girls and 10 and 15 for boys. Sever’s disease rarely occurs in older teens because the back of the heel usually finishes growing by the age of 15, when the growth plate hardens and the growing bones fuse together into mature bone.
Sever’s disease commonly results from physical activities and sports that involve running and jumping, especially those that take place on hard surfaces, such as track, basketball, soccer, and gymnastics. It can also result from standing too long, which puts constant pressure on the heel. Poor-fitting shoes can contribute to the condition by not providing enough support or padding for the feet or by rubbing against the back of the heel.
Sever’s disease is similar to Osgood-Schlatter disease, a condition that affects the bones in the knees. The most obvious sign of Sever’s disease is pain or tenderness in one or both heels, usually at the back. The pain also might extend to the sides and bottom of the heel, ending near the arch of the foot. A child may also experience swelling and redness in the heel, difficulty walking, discomfort or stiffness in the feet upon awakening, discomfort when the heel is squeezed on both sides, or an unusual walk (such as walking with a limp or on tiptoes to avoid putting pressure on the heel).
Sever’s disease will go away on its own when it is used less or when the bone has finished growing, but it can recur (for example, at the start of a new sports season). Traditionally, the only known cure was for children to outgrow the condition, with recurrences happening an average of 18 months before this occurs. The risk of recurrence goes away on its own when foot growth is complete and the growth plate has fused to the rest of the heel bone, usually around age 15.
The immediate goal of treatment is pain relief. Because symptoms generally worsen with activity, the main treatment for Sever’s disease is rest, which helps to relieve pressure on the heel bone, decreasing swelling and reducing pain. Your child will likely be asked to cut down on or avoid all activities that cause pain until all symptoms are gone. Over-the-counter medication may be recommended to reduce pain and swelling. In very severe cases, the doctor might recommend that the child wear a cast for anywhere from two to 12 weeks to immobilize the foot so that it can heal.
Although Sever’s disease heals on its own without any long-term effects, many active children can get frustrated with the amount of downtime required for traditional recovery. This can be especially problematic for children involved in competitive sports. Airrosti can significantly reduce your child’s recovery time and quickly eliminate pain associated with Sever’s disease, allowing your child to resume normal activity.