Children's Hospital Colorado

Sever's Disease

What is Sever's disease?

Sever's disease is a condition occurring in pre-adolescents that causes pain, swelling and soreness in the heel bone, also known as the calcaneus.

Sever's disease causes pain on either side of and/or on the bottom of the heel. During a period of pre-adolescent development, the growing heel bone can be overused when the child is involved in a lot of running and jumping activities. Impact on the heel bone and repeated traction on the growing bone from the Achilles tendon can lead to swelling in the area.

Who gets Sever's disease?

Sever's disease only occurs during a certain period of pre-adolescence, when the heel bone is going through a rapid growth spurt. In girls, this typically occurs around 8 to 10 years of age, and in boys, between ages 10 and 13.

Sever's disease is more common in active, athletic children. The condition is difficult to prevent completely but changing the type and amount of physical activity when your child is experiencing pain will help.

What are the signs and symptoms of Sever's disease?

Young athletes with Sever's complain of pain with physical activity and tenderness over the heel bone. Kids and adolescents may limp or walk on their toes to avoid putting painful pressure on their heel. The heel might become swollen and hurt to touch. The pain and swelling often improve with rest.

How is Sever's disease diagnosed?

Doctors at Children's Hospital Colorado diagnose Sever's disease based on your child's symptoms, a physical exam and occasionally an X-ray of the heel. Heel X-rays help doctors take a closer look at the growing area of bone and determine other possible causes of heel pain.

The most common symptoms of Sever's disease are activity-related heel pain in pre-adolescents patients, which is the typical age group where the bone is growing rapidly. A doctor's examination usually reveals tenderness over the heel bone and tightness of the heel cord and calf muscles.

How is Sever's disease treated?

Doctors at Children's Colorado help treat Sever's disease by focusing on controlling the pain. This condition can be frustrating, as the child or adolescent is prone to pain during the length of the growth spurt (usually about two years). Once your child's growth spurt is over, the pain should resolve.

In the meantime, your child may choose to participate in fewer activities or lower-impact activities to avoid heel pain. Rest should be encouraged based on the level of pain, but your child should be allowed to return to activity once the pain is under better control.

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