Living With Severs Disease
Sever?s Disease is one of the most common overuse injuries affecting children during their secondary growth spurts and is described as a self-limiting condition resolving naturally with skeletal maturity 1. It is suggested to be caused by progressive microtrauma to the bone-cartilage interface in the calcaneal apophysis partly due to large traction forces in the Achilles tendon. The current standard treatment consists mainly of rest, and waiting for skeletal maturity.
Sever?s disease is often an overuse injury. It can be caused by playing sports, especially those involving high impact. Sever?s disease can also be linked to growth which can place a stress on the attachment of the Achilles tendon.
Symptoms of calcaneal apophysitis may include pain in the back or bottom of the heel, Limping, walking on toes, difficulty running, jumping, or participating in usual activities or sports. Pain when the sides of the heel are squeezed.
A physical exam of the heel will show tenderness over the back of the heel but not in the Achilles tendon or plantar fascia. There may be tightness in the calf muscle, which contributes to tension on the heel. The tendons in the heel get stretched more in patients with flat feet. There is greater impact force on the heels of athletes with a high-arched, rigid foot. The doctor may order an x-ray because x-rays can confirm how mature the growth center is and if there are other sources of heel pain, such as a stress fracture or bone cyst. However, x-rays are not necessary to diagnose Sever?s disease, and it is not possible to make the diagnosis based on the x-ray alone.
Non Surgical Treatment
Heel pain, unlike the heel spurs, that occur in adults is very uncommon in children. Of those children who do get heel pain, by far the most common cause is a disturbance to the growing area at the back of the heel bone (calcaneus) where the strong achilles tendon attaches to it. This is known as Sever’s disease or calcaneal apophysitis (inflammation of the growth plate). It is most common between the ages of 10 to 14 years of age. These are one of several different ‘osteochondroses’ that can occur in other parts of the body, such as at the knee (Osgood-Schlatters Disease).
The surgeon may select one or more of the following options to treat calcaneal apophysitis. Reduce activity. The child needs to reduce or stop any activity that causes pain. Support the heel. Temporary shoe inserts or custom orthotic devices may provide support for the heel. Medications. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, help reduce the pain and inflammation. Physical therapy. Stretching or physical therapy modalities are sometimes used to promote healing of the inflamed issue. Immobilization. In some severe cases of pediatric heel pain, a cast may be used to promote healing while keeping the foot and ankle totally immobile. Often heel pain in children returns after it has been treated because the heel bone is still growing. Recurrence of heel pain may be a sign of calcaneal apophysitis, or it may indicate a different problem. If your child has a repeat bout of heel pain, be sure to make an appointment with your foot and ankle surgeon.