Severs Disease is a common cause of heel pain in children. It is seen most commonly in children aged 5 - 11 years old. Children with Severs Disease will complain of heel pain that increases with activity. The pain is often relieved by rest, although some children will continue to have pain with regular activities, such as walking. Severs Disease has much in common with Osgood-Schlatter Disease. Both are described as being a traction apophysitis.
Sever's disease usually develops as a result of overuse and is common in active children between the ages of 8 to 12. Activities that involve running or jumping can cause undue stress on the calcaneal apophysis. This in turn leads to the development of microscopic damage to the calcaneal apophysis resulting in inflammation and pain. Poor flexibility of the calf muscles and of the Achilles tendon, overpronation (feet rolled in) and inappropriate footwear are some of the other factors that can cause Sever's disease.
The most prominent symptom of Sever's disease is heel pain which is usually aggravated by physical activity such as walking, running or jumping. The pain is localized to the posterior and plantar side of the heel over the calcaneal apophysis. Sometimes, the pain may be so severe that it may cause limping and interfere with physical performance in sports. External appearance of the heel is almost always normal, and signs of local disease such as edema, erythema (redness) is absent. The main diagnostic tool is pain on medial- lateral compression of the calcaneus in the area of growth plate, so called squeeze test. Foot radiographs are usually normal. Therefore the diagnosis of Sever's disease is primarily clinical.
A doctor or other health professional such as a physiotherapist can diagnose Sever?s disease by asking the young person to describe their symptoms and by conducting a physical examination. In some instances, an x-ray may be necessary to rule out other causes of heel pain, such as heel fractures. Sever?s disease does not show on an x-ray because the damage is in the cartilage.
Non Surgical Treatment
The initial treatment is rest, relieve the pain and treat the underlying cause. The foot and ankle should be rested so that the apophysis it is not being continually ?injured?. A small heel (sorbothane heel insert) raise can used to raise the heel and take the stretch off the Achilles tendon. It may be sufficient to stop your child playing sport but some children require a short period of bed or couch rest. Some children find resting very difficult and require the use of braces or plasters or boots to slow them down. Using crutches is advised. Severs is usually caused by tight muscles. A stretching program should be followed usually supervised by a physiotherapist. The stretching program may need to be undertaken up to 5 times a day. If flat feet are a problems orthotics (insoles) should be used. The pain should be controlled by rest (limiting activity) and ice (icing the painful area 3-4 times a day - making sure the skin is not burnt), Simple pain killers can be used such as paracetamol as well as anti-inflammatory tablets and cream. Severs disease usually goes away with time. When your child stops growing, the pain and swelling should go away because the growing (weak) area fuses and becomes solid bone which is very strong.
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.