Severs disease, also known as calcaneal apophysitis is a painful bone disorder that a lot of Irish dance competitor’s experience. The painful bone disorder results from swelling of the growth plate in the heel. This article will explain the symptoms, how to treat severs disease and how to prevent it.
Severs disease is very common for Irish dance kids but it is also common for kids who are generally physically active. In simple terms, severs disease occurs when your heel bone grows faster than the muscles, ligaments and tendons in your legs. The heel grows faster than most body parts and because it grows so fast, the ligaments and tendons become stretched because they cannot grow at the same speed as the heel.
As a dancer, you are very active and obviously the art of Irish dance involves constant jumping on hard surfaces which can put extra strain on stretched ligaments and tendons. When you put extra strain on overstretched ligaments and tendons, the areas where tendons are attached become inflamed and painful.
Severs disease is common in both boys and girls, however age may vary depending on the child’s growth spurt.
- Pain, swelling and redness
- Tightness – especially when pressure is applied to the area
- Heel pain – the pain usually increases after exercises. example: dance class
- Walking or activities on your toes such as Irish Dancing will be uncomfortable
- As a parent, you may see your child limping
These symptoms usually last a few months and then disappear. But, as I said every child varies depending on their growth spurt. I know this is not what you want to hear and as a dancer myself in my childhood years I understand, but you must REST if the pain is too severe. When you feel that you are ready to return to dance practice, don’t return to high intensity training immediately. Increase the time of practice and intensity as you progress in a slow manner. If it hurts, STOP!
Now, when I say rest I don’t mean complete rest! You should focus on eliminating pain and try to restore foot and leg biomechanics. Read on if you want to know more…
Other treatment methods include:
Using Ice: As you know, if you have attended one of my workshops, I do not believe that ice decreases inflammation but it does reduce pain for a short period of time so if you are experiencing a lot of pain use ice.
Anti-inflammatory: You will more than likely experience swelling which will as a result increase the level of pain as you put pressure on the area. Again, if any of you have attended my workshops you will know that I am not a fan of taking anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen so I recommend that you take a natural anti-inflammatory such as turmeric (but please check with your doctor or a health professional before giving to your child). There are other options which I will be happy to give you, just contact me on my website www.irishdancingphysicalfitness.com or on my Facebook page ‘Irish Dancing Physical Fitness’.
Wear comfortable shoes: Wear comfortable shoes that will reduce stress on the heel bone.
Physical Therapy: This is where I can help you. As a therapist I will put a program together for you including the following:
We will try to regain full range of motion of the foot and ankle because you will experience stiffness.
We will make sure that the calf muscles and hamstrings are at full length and we will assure that you have good hip mobility and stability.
I also recommend frequent sports massage treatments to reduce the stress on the tendons and ligaments, taking the pressure off the heel bone.
Taping methods for severs disease:
There are taping methods to take the pressure off the facial plane, which will help to reduce pulling against the painful structure. As some of you know, from treating your injuries at large dancing events, taping methods can be very effective. But also know that this is a temporary solution.
When does it stop?
When your childs growth spurt comes to an end, the severs disease will too. But until then severs disease can come and go, especially if you are very active.
Until the severs disease comes to an end, please be patient with your child. It can be a frustrating time for them and being in pain on a daily basis is not a nice experience. So do what you can to support them. If they are in any pain, please advise them to stop exercising and follow a program that will reduce the pain and discomfort in the meantime.
If you need my help, please visit my website www.irishdancingphysicalfitness.com or you can visit my Facebook page Irish Dancing Physical Fitness and send me a private message. I will be happy to help in any way I can.
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Thank you for reading.
Peter O’ Grady
Author of ‘Upping Your Step’. A training book for Irish dancing.
Irish Dancing Physical Fitness
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