Severs disease or calcaneal apophysitis causes heel pain usually in growing children between age nine and fourteen. It occurs as a result of disturbance during the final development of the heel growth plate. During this time the achilles tendon is pulling strongly on the heel bone and this excessive force can cause inflammation and pain.
Growth plates, also called epiphyseal plates, occur at the end of long bones in children who are still growing. These plates are at either end of growing bones, and are the place where cartilage turns into bone. As children grow, these plates eventually become bone (a process called ossification). During a growth spurt, the bone in the heel may outpace the growth of the muscles and tendons that are attached to the heel, such as the Achilles tendon. During weight bearing, the muscles and tendons begin to tighten, which in turn puts stress on the growth plate in the heel. The heel is not very flexible, and the constant pressure on it begins to cause the symptoms of Sever?s disease. Sever?s disease is common, and it does not predispose a child to develop any other diseases or conditions in the leg, foot, or heel. It typically resolves on its own.
Sever's disease usually develops gradually. The pain from Sever's disease is often intermittent and localized to the area where the Achilles tendon attaches to the calcaneus. Swelling may be noted in this area. There can be tenderness on squeezing the calcaneus or pain when trying to stretch the calf muscles. Occasionally there is night pain. As Sever's disease progresses there can be continuous pain.
Sever?s disease can be diagnosed based on your history and symptoms. Clinically, your physiotherapist will perform a "squeeze test" and some other tests to confirm the diagnosis. Some children suffer Sever?s disease even though they do less exercise than other. This indicates that it is not just training volume that is at play. Foot and leg biomechanics are a predisposing factor. The main factors thought to predispose a child to Sever?s disease include a decrease in ankle dorsiflexion, abnormal hind foot motion eg overpronation or supination, tight calf muscles, excessive weight-bearing activities eg running.
Non Surgical Treatment
Management by a health professional of Sever's disease is often wise. There are a few very rare problems that may be causing the pain, so a correct diagnosis is extremely important. Advice should be given on all of what is mentioned above, appropriate activity levels, the use of ice, always wearing shoes, heel raises and stretching, follow this advice. As a pronated foot is common in children with this problem, a discussion regarding the use of foot orthotics long term may be important. Strapping or tape is sometimes used during activity to limit the ankle joint range of motion. If the symptoms are bad enough and not responding to these measures, medication to help with anti-inflammatory may be needed. In some cases the lower limb may need to be put in a cast for 2-6 weeks to give it a good chance to heal. After the calcaneal apophysitis resolves, prevention with the use of stretching, good supportive shock absorbing shoe and heel raises are important to prevent it happening again.
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.