Heel pain in children, usually between the ages of 8-13 is very common. The medical term for this is called Sever’s Disease or calcaneal apophysitis, which is an inflammation of the growth plate in the heel of growing children.
Sever’s disease starts off with pain in the heel which is caused by repetitive stress such as walking, running or jumping. The pain is located at the back and sides of the heel, which will make it very painful for the child to place any weight on the foot.
In my experience as both a therapist and a mother, expecting your child to not engage in any physical movement is unrealistic. In cases where the pain is very severe, I usually recommend the child wear a moon boot and/or crutches. This helps the child move around without placing stress on the foot.
So what causes Sever’s Disease?
Sever’s disease is generally related to overuse of the bone and tendons in the heel. This can come from playing sports or anything that involves a lot of heel movement. Starting a new sport, or the start of a new sporting season can also cause Sever’s Disease to flare up.
As children go through adolescence are also at risk of getting it because the heel bone grows quicker than the leg thus placing stress on the tendons and joints.
Children with flat feet are more prone to getting Sever’s Disease. The arch of the foot plays a very important role in maintaining a stable base, thus preventing too much weight being placed on the outer ankle.
How can massage therapy help Sever’s Disease?
Although Sever’s Disease is a condition that usually corrects itself when the bone has completed its growth, Massage therapy can help alleviate the pain by lengthening the surrounding tendons, as well as loosening the calf muscles, by applying soft tissue release to the affected are
Passive stretches can also help maintain good flexibility.
Most importantly, staying off the foot during a flare up is important, as well as the use of aids such as crutches/and or a moon boot. Gel insoles in well fitting shoes can also take pressure off the heal, but most importantly, once inflammation has reduced, please ensure your child does not over use the foot to early, as it may cause the pain to flare up again.
What is the expected outcome?
With proper care and attention to restricting excessive physical movement, Sever’s Disease usually heals within two weeks, however, flare ups may occur until the bone plate has completely fused.
Lilley is a caring and compassionate massage therapist who has had over 15 years experience in this field. Lilley specialises in relaxation and therapeutic massage as well as sports and remedial massage in the treatment of various musculoskeletal pathologies.