When one of our kids developed pain in his heel it was hard to watch him not be able to compete at the same level he was used to and I’m sure 100 times more frustrating for him! We took him to the youth sports orthopedic to be evaluated where he was x-rayed. There was no injury but it was educational to see the development of the growth plates and likely cause of pain that can be attributed to sever’s disease.
If your child develops heel pain you’ll probably hear the term sever’s disease thrown around as something to look into. The most important things to remember are 1) that it is not a disease and 2) it is temporary. For more information on what it is and what causes it check out this explanation from kidshealth.org.
So now you know what Sever’s Disease is but what can be done to treat it?
You might read or hear that nothing can be done except to rest and to some extent that is true. Hopefully you’ve also heard that with Sever’s disease you won’t do any damage to your body by playing through the pain. You can’t make your body finish growing so that Sever’s goes away but you can manage the pain and in most cases you can keep playing. Each individual is different and what works for one person may not be as effective for the next but after trying many ideas we have Sever’s disease under control. The following is not medical advice. This post contains affiliate links.
Things to try for managing pain from Sever’s disease:
1. Compression socks: put them on after practice to keep the legs warm and blood flowing. We like these SmartWool compression socks.
3. Ice: after practices and games to reduce the inflammation. An ice gel pack is good but if you really want to see a kid squirm try icing their legs in a bucket! We ice about 10 minutes with the gel pack. For the bucket we did 3 sets of 2 minutes on, 1 minute off. Another unique option that is keeping paper cups filled with water in your freezer. Peel the top of the cup away and massage the ice-cup over the area allowing the ice to melt away. An alternative to ice (when in a time crunch or away from home) is this Cool’Ntape compression bandage.
4. Gel insoles: the ground is hard here in Colorado and the impact of a cleat hitting that ground is tough on a kid with Sever’s. Buy the lowest profile insole you can find since its going in a cleat and typically a women’s size will work best for kids. We found these Sof Sole insoles to work well. We tried Superfeet insoles and while a good product for other scenarios they did not help with Sever’s as there just isn’t enough cushion to reduce impact.
5. Stretch/massage daily. Keep reading; this is not a typical stretch but more of an active release strategy. Unfortunately for us the heel pain was a precursor to sharp achilles pain and knots in the calves. This technique however, has eliminated the achilles pain completely. For maintenance and prevention of Sever’s getting worse this has been by far the most effective of everything we’ve tried. You’ll have your child lay on their stomach and point their toe. Apply firm pressure with your thumbs and have the child lengthen the muscle by bringing the toe up towards the shin. Repeat this from just above the Achilles through the calf. Recap: 1) point the toe, 2) apply pressure, and 3) flex the foot. You want to muscle to work through the pressure from a contracted to elongated position. We have used a cream called NOW Glucosamine, MSM and Arnica in addition to Dr. Hoys Natural Pain Relief Gel with good success. From Wikipedia: Arnica montana has been used medicinally for centuries. Arnica is used in liniment and ointment preparations used for strains, sprains, and bruises. Commercial Arnica preparations are frequently used by professional athletes.
6. Shoes: If your child plays on turf, then buy turf shoes. If your child plays on artificial grass a fair amount, then invest in AG cleats. These make a huge difference! Lower profile + more studs = less impact
7. Heel Cups: these Sof Sole Gel Heel Cups work well in the school sneakers. A women’s size will likely work best for kids.