Severs Disease/Irish Dance/Symptoms/Treatment/Exercises


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.

Symptoms include:

  • Pain, swelling and redness
  • Tenderness
  • 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 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 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.

If you found this blog helpful, please leave a comment or feedback. Also like and share my Facebook page if you find it useful and keep up to date with my posts.

Thank you for reading.

Written by

Peter O’ Grady

Author of ‘Upping Your Step’. A training book for Irish dancing.

Irish Dancing Physical Fitness

We are on Facebook, Instagram and Youtube.


11 thoughts on “Severs Disease/Irish Dance/Symptoms/Treatment/Exercises”

    1. Irish Dancing Physical Fitness

      Hi Bernie, Im glad you found it helpful. If I can help you in any way please feel free to contact me via my website, Facebook or phone. Regards Peter

  1. siobhan mccaffrey

    I have found this reading very helpful ..l think my 11 year has this severs disease she has constant pain in her heel the last 8–9 months ..last resort going for an x- ray which probablly wont show anything…a very interesting read….

  2. Hello Peter, my daughter recently broke one of the bones adjacent to the calcaneam (sorry! Spelling!). What should I anticipate for recovery needs? She is currently prizewinner.

    1. Irish Dancing Physical Fitness

      Hi Jeannie, Can you give me more information with relation to her injury and her current symptoms. I can advise more then 😀 Peter

  3. My daughter had this about a year ago. Her doctor told her the same things mentioned here. She followed what the doctor said and the symptoms went away when her growth spurt ended. Great information!

    1. Irish Dancing Physical Fitness

      Hi Cathy, Thank you for your comments 😀 Im glad the worst is over for your daughter. If you need any help or advice in the future do not hesitate to ask ! Peter.

  4. My daughter has been dealing with sesmoiditis on and off for almost 2 years. The orthopedic at Boston Children’s Hospital put her in a cast and or boot for almost a yeqr and had a cortisone shot. She has been back dancing for almost a year and has been complaining every so often that it hurts again. Not sure what we should be doing to prevent another year off.
    Thank you

    1. Irish Dancing Physical Fitness

      Hi Kristen,

      Why did they put her in a cast and boot in the first place?

      What age is she now? And can you give me more information… e.g when does she experience pain, where is the pain exactly, any other related symptoms, has she less movement in her foot and ankle since the cast or boot was taken off, any inflammation?

      You can reply via our facebook page, email or here 😀


  5. My daughter is recently complaining of pain in the back of her leg at the very bottom near her heel. It only happens after she has been at dance class and has done a few dances. She had to stop in class tonight it hurt so bad. She is 11. I was thinking she was exaggerating but maybe not??

    1. Hi Michelle, Im not sure if I replied to your message already? Its possible that she has a restriction with relation to her movement. I would not know for sure until I see her. Where are you based?

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