Sever’s Disease: What You Need to Know About Your Child’s Heel Pain

Sep 27, 2023

As a parent, you’re always on the lookout for your child’s well-being, especially when it comes to their health and comfort. Heel pain in children can be concerning, and one condition that might cause it is Sever’s disease. In this comprehensive article, we’ll delve into what Sever’s disease is, its causes, symptoms, development, prevention, and ways to alleviate the discomfort it brings. If your child is experiencing heel pain, don’t hesitate to reach out to Michigan Foot & Ankle Specialists for expert guidance.

What is Sever’s Disease?

Sever’s disease, also known as calcaneal apophysitis, is a common condition affecting children during their growth spurts, typically between the ages of 8 and 15. It’s not a disease in the traditional sense but rather an overuse injury to the growth plate in the heel bone (calcaneus). As children’s bodies grow rapidly, their muscles and tendons can’t always keep up, leading to stress on the growth plate.

woman holding child's feet

What Are the Causes?

Several factors can contribute to Sever’s disease:

  • Physical Activity: Engaging in high-impact sports or activities that involve a lot of running and jumping can strain the heel area.
  • Growth Spurts: Rapid growth can lead to muscle and tendon tightness, which exacerbates the problem.
  • Biomechanical Factors: Abnormal foot structure or gait can increase the risk of Sever’s disease.

What are the Symptoms?

Certainly, let’s explore the symptoms of Sever’s disease in more detail to help parents and caregivers better recognize and understand the signs of this condition.

Heel Pain

One of the hallmark symptoms of Sever’s disease is heel pain. Children with this condition typically experience pain in the back of the heel, specifically where the Achilles tendon attaches to the calcaneus or heel bone. This pain can vary in intensity, ranging from mild discomfort to sharp, stabbing pain. The pain is often exacerbated during or after physical activity, especially activities that involve running, jumping, or walking for extended periods.

Limping or Difficulty Walking

Due to the discomfort and pain associated with Sever’s disease, children may develop a limp or have difficulty walking normally. They may favor one foot or put less weight on the affected heel to reduce pain when walking. This change in gait is a clear indication that something is amiss, and it often prompts parents to seek medical attention for their child.

Tenderness and Swelling in the Heel

Another common symptom is tenderness and swelling in the affected heel. Parents or caregivers may notice that the heel feels warm to the touch and is sensitive when pressed. This tenderness and swelling are typically localized to the back of the heel, near the insertion point of the Achilles tendon. The swelling can sometimes be subtle but is usually noticeable upon careful examination.

Increased Pain in the Morning or After Rest

Children with Sever’s disease often experience an increase in pain and discomfort in the morning or after periods of rest. This phenomenon, known as “start-up pain,” occurs because the foot has been at rest, and the muscles, tendons, and growth plate may stiffen during this time. When the child begins to move and put weight on the affected foot, the pain becomes more pronounced. The morning’s pain can be a telltale sign of Sever’s disease and should not be ignored.

Parents and caregivers need to be vigilant and responsive to these symptoms. While Sever’s disease is not a life-threatening condition, addressing it promptly is crucial for the child’s comfort and overall well-being. If you notice any of these symptoms or suspect that your child may be experiencing Sever’s disease, it’s advisable to contact Dr. Thomas. Early intervention and appropriate management can help alleviate pain, promote healing, and allow your child to continue their active lifestyle with minimal disruption.

How Does it Develop?

Sever’s disease develops when the Achilles tendon continuously pulls on the growth plate at the back of the heel. This repetitive stress can cause inflammation and microtrauma, resulting in the pain and discomfort associated with the condition.

Are There Things You Can Do to Prevent It?

While Sever’s disease is common among active children, there are steps you can take to reduce the risk:

  • Proper Footwear: Ensure your child wears supportive, well-fitting shoes appropriate for their activity level.
  • Stretching and Strengthening Exercises: Encourage your child to perform regular stretches and exercises that promote flexibility and strength in the calf and Achilles tendon.
  • Rest and Activity Modification: Limit excessive physical activity, especially if your child is experiencing pain. Allow time for rest and recovery.
  • Orthotic Inserts: Consult us about custom orthotic inserts to support your child’s foot structure and biomechanics.

What Can You Do to Help with Symptoms?

If your child is already experiencing heel pain, here are some strategies to alleviate their discomfort:

  • Rest: Encourage your child to take a break from activities that exacerbate the pain.
  • Ice: Applying ice to the affected heel for 15-20 minutes can help reduce inflammation.
  • Pain Medication: Over-the-counter pain relievers, under the guidance of a healthcare professional, can provide temporary relief.
  • Physical Therapy: Consult with a physical therapist to develop a personalized treatment plan that may include stretching and strengthening exercises.
Women's hands hold children's legs

Contact Us Today to Help with Your Child’s Sever’s Disease!

If your child is suffering from heel pain and you suspect Sever’s disease, don’t hesitate to reach out to Michigan Foot & Ankle Specialists. Our experienced team can provide a thorough evaluation, accurate diagnosis, and effective treatment options to ensure your child’s comfort and well-being. 

Contact us today to schedule an appointment and put your child on the path to recovery. Your child’s active, pain-free future starts with us!



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Dearborn, MI 48126


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