It is important to know that foot pain is not only limited to grown-ups. Often active, healthy children will complain of pain in one or both heels shortly after walking, running, engaging or playing sports. The pain is usually felt at the back of, or under the heel. The cause of heel pain in children is usually a condition called calcaneal apophysitis or Sever's Disease, normally reported by 8 to 14 year olds.
Severs disease is often associated with a rapid growth spurt. As the bones get longer, the muscles and tendons become tighter as they cannot keep up with the bone growth. The point at which the achilles tendon attaches to the heel becomes inflamed and the bone starts to crumble (a lot like osgood schlatters disease of the knee). Tight calf muscles may contribute as the range of motion at the ankle is reduced resulting in more strain on the achilles tendon. Sever's disease is the second most common injury of this type which is known as an apophysitis.
Chief complaint is heel pain which increases pain during running and jumping activities. Pain is localized to the very posterior aspect of the heel. Pain is elicited only with weightbearing. Mild involvement is present if pain is brought on only with running during sports. The symptoms can be severe, with pain (and possibly limp) with activities of daily living (ie walking).
Your podiatrist will take a comprehensive medical history and perform a physical examination including a gait analysis. The assessment will include foot posture assessment, joint flexibility (or range of motion), biomechanical assessment of the foot, ankle and leg, foot and leg muscle strength testing, footwear assessment, school shoes and athletic footwear, gait analysis, to look for abnormalities in the way the feet move during gait, Pain provocation tests eg calcaneal squeeze test. X-rays are not usually required to diagnose Sever?s disease.
Non Surgical Treatment
Treatment depends on the severity of the condition, but may include relative rest and modified activity, a physiotherapist can help work out what, and how much, activity to undertake. Cold packs, apply ice or cold packs to the back of the heels for around 15 minutes after any physical activity, including walking. Shoe inserts, small heel inserts worn inside the shoes can take some of the traction pressure off the Achilles tendons. This will only be required in the short term. Medication, pain-relieving medication may help in extreme cases, but should always be combined with other treatment and following consultation with your doctor). Anti-inflammatory creams are also an effective management tool. Splinting or casting, in severe cases, it may be necessary to immobilise the lower leg using a splint or cast, but this is rare. Time, generally the pain will ease in one to two weeks, although there may be flare-ups from time to time. Correction of any biomechanical issues, a physiotherapist can identify and discuss any biomechanical issues that may cause or worsen the condition. Education on how to self-manage the symptoms and flare-ups of Sever?s disease is an essential part of the treatment.
The following exercises are commonly prescribed to patients with Severs disease. You should discuss the suitability of these exercises with your physiotherapist prior to beginning them. Generally, they should be performed 1 - 3 times daily and only provided they do not cause or increase symptoms. Your physiotherapist can advise when it is appropriate to begin the initial exercises and eventually progress to the intermediate, advanced and other exercises. As a general rule, addition of exercises or progression to more advanced exercises should take place provided there is no increase in symptoms. Calf Stretch with Towel. Begin this stretch in long sitting with your leg to be stretched in front of you. Your knee and back should be straight and a towel or rigid band placed around your foot as demonstrated. Using your foot, ankle and the towel, bring your toes towards your head as far as you can go without pain and provided you feel no more than a mild to moderate stretch in the back of your calf, Achilles tendon or leg. Hold for 5 seconds and repeat 10 times at a mild to moderate stretch provided the exercise is pain free. Calf Stretch with Towel. Begin this exercise with a resistance band around your foot and your foot and ankle held up towards your head. Slowly move your foot and ankle down against the resistance band as far as possible and comfortable without pain, tightening your calf muscle. Very slowly return back to the starting position. Repeat 10 - 20 times provided the exercise is pain free. Once you can perform 20 repetitions consistently without pain, the exercise can be progressed by gradually increasing the resistance of the band provided there is no increase in symptoms. Bridging. Begin this exercise lying on your back in the position demonstrated. Slowly lift your bottom pushing through your feet, until your knees, hips and shoulders are in a straight line. Tighten your bottom muscles (gluteals) as you do this. Hold for 2 seconds then slowly lower your bottom back down. Repeat 10 times provided the exercise is pain free.