Sever?s disease, also known as calcaneal apophysitis, is an inflammation of the heel?s growth plate. It is commonly seen in active children between the ages of 8 and 15 years. These children present with pain when walking, running and jumping. Observable inflammation may or may not be present and parents may often notice their child limping or favouring a limb during or after sports.
The heel bone grows faster than the ligaments in the leg. As a result, muscles and tendons can become very tight and overstretched in children who are going through growth spurts. The heel is especially susceptible to injury since the foot is one of the first parts of the body to grow to full size and the heel area is not very flexible. Sever?s disease occurs as a result of repetitive stress on the Achilles tendon. Over time, this constant pressure on the already tight heel cord can damage the growth plate, causing pain and inflammation. Such stress and pressure can result from, Sports that involve running and jumping on hard surfaces (track, basketball and gymnastics). Standing too long, which puts constant pressure on the heel. Poor-fitting shoes that don?t provide enough support or padding for the feet. Overuse or exercising too much can also cause Sever?s disease.
Symptoms of Sever?s disease, mostly pain at the back of heel, usually occur during and after sporting activity, and usually disappear with rest. In some cases, children may find it difficult to place pressure on their heels, and begin walking on their toes to gain relief. For some children, the heel pain will persist until the next morning, causing some stiffness or hobbling on first arising. Some children may experience mild swelling at the back of the heel.
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
The disease itself is self limiting and will resolve regardless of treatment once the growth plate has fully closed. Depending on the age of the youth at onset this could be a problem for many years. Treatment has always been aimed at managing the pain as well as the inflammation. This is done with the rest, ice, non steroidal anti-inflammatories like ibuprofen, stretching, taping, heel cups, heel lifts and orthotics. In severe cases, cast or walking boot immobilization is used. Each of these have differing levels of efficacy but in my experience orthotics are the golden treatment or the silver bullet. I am not talking about your run of the mill over the counter Dr. Scholls shoe insert. These definitely have their place in the world but not here. Custom molded orthotics made from a mold taken of the youths foot will provide the necessary control and support to stop the pain cycle. We can safely report over 85% of patients who are able to get back to sports and other activities as long as they wear the orthotics in supportive shoes as directed.
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.