We treat many patients at Austin Foot and Ankle Specialists for problems that cause heel pain. As with many medical issues, there are several potential reasons why someone might experience pain in this particular area. In our younger patients, it is often due to a medical condition called calcaneal apophysis. More commonly known as Sever’s disease, this condition develops in either one or both feet and stems from variances your child’s physical growth process.
Sever’s Disease Cause and Symptoms
Despite its name, this condition is not actually a “disease.” Instead, the cause behind the pain is simply a matter of the calcaneus (heel bone) growing at a faster rate than the connective tissue—particularly the Achilles tendon—that is anchored by it. This results in a situation where tendons and muscles connected to the bone become excessively tight and overstretched. The problem is further exacerbated when sports or other physical activities enter the picture.
Calcaneal apophysis is generally seen in boys between the ages of 10 and 15 and in girls between the ages of 8 and 13. Excess pressure and stress on the soft tissues can be a result not only of sports, but also of poor-fitting footwear, long periods of standing, and overuse.
The primary symptoms we observe in our patients for this condition include:
- Heel pain.
- Discomfort and stiffness in the back of the heel upon waking in the morning.
- Limping or difficulty with walking.
- Swelling and/or redness in the back of the heel area.
Usually, the symptoms worsen during or after physical activities and then lessen after the child has rested for an extended period of time.
Treating a Child’s Painful Heels
Since this condition is not a disease and is, instead, caused by variances in the natural growth process, treatment options are focused on relieving painful symptoms, rather than trying to resolve the condition by altering bone structure or soft tissues while your child is still growing.
Treatment for Sever’s will frequently entail:
- Reduced levels of physical activity – Activities that cause pain in the affected heel(s) need to be either limited or avoid altogether until the pain is resolved. Eventually, connective tissues catch up to the growth of the heel bone.
- Support for affected heels – Our office can prescribe custom orthotic devices that offer extra support for the heel. This promotes reduced inflammation and pain in the affected area.
- Medication – We may prescribe or recommend certain nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to reduce levels of inflammation and pain. Ibuprofen often proves to be particularly effective, but keep in mind that if you are going to provide medication to your son or daughter be sure to check with our office for appropriate dosages, and never give aspirin.
- Physical therapy – Stretching and therapeutic modalities are also useful in helping inflamed tissue heal and become more limber.
- Immobilization – For patients who are dealing with a severe cases of the condition, our doctors may prescribe a cast or other device to promote healing by keeping the affected area immobile.
There is no known method to prevent this condition from developing, but there are actions that can be performed to lower the risk and severity of the heel pain that often accompanies the condition.
A healthy bodyweight will keep excess pressure off an affected heel. Supportive shoes that are well-constructed can prevent symptoms, especially when they are intended for the sports or activities that your son or daughter performs. It is also a good idea to limit the amount of high-impact activities (those that require lots of running and/or jumping) that he or she performs.
The best news about Sever’s disease is that is only a temporary situation and your son or daughter will likely grow out of the condition in time and without sustaining any long-term damage.
Pediatric Foot Care in Austin, TX
When your son or daughter needs expert pediatric or adolescent foot care in the greater Austin, TX community, Austin Foot and Ankle Specialists is ready to help. We provide first-class foot care and treatment for patients of all ages, administered by leading professionals in the field of podiatry. Schedule an appointment with us today online or give our podiatrist office a call at (512) 328-8900.