Addressing Severs Disease

Overview

Sever?s disease is particularly prevalent among active children between ages 8 and 15. Young boys and girls who play soccer and other sports in which footwear is inappropriate-i.e. too narrow in the toe box, too rigid, etc. are most commonly affected. Sever?s disease usually appears during the adolescent growth spurt-the 2-year period in early puberty where children grow the quickest. The adolescent growth spurt occurs between the ages of 8 and 13 in girls and 10 and 15 in boys. Teenagers over 15 years old rarely experience this heel problem, as heel bone growth is usually complete by this age. Sever?s disease usually self-resolves within 6 months of onset, though it can last longer.

Causes

Mechanically, the heel takes a beating. And the apophyseal bone is located near the point of impact for the heel bone at heel strike and with most weight bearing activities. This includes running, jumping and walking. Heavy impact activities like soccer, football and gymnastics are commonly associated with this problem. In addition to this, there is traction on this apophyseal bone and the associated physeal line of growth cartilage. This traction on the apopysis (island of bone) along with the impact of weight bearing activities can lead to inflammation and pain. Tight Achilles and calf muscles also can contribute to this problem, and why stretching is discussed later.

Symptoms

Unilateral or bilateral heel pain. Heel pain during physical exercise, especially activities that require running or jumping or are high impact. Pain is often worse after exercise. A tender swelling or bulge on the heel that is painful on touch. Limping. Calf muscle stiffness first thing in the morning.

Diagnosis

Children or adolescents who are experiencing pain and discomfort in their feet should be evaluated by a physician. In some cases, no imaging tests are needed to diagnose Sever?s disease. A podiatrist or other healthcare professional may choose to order an x-ray or imaging study, however, to ensure that there is no other cause for the pain, such as a fracture. Sever?s disease will not show any findings on an x-ray because it affects cartilage.

Non Surgical Treatment

Podiatrists have an important role in the provision of orthotics to young sufferers of Severs? disease. Orthotics are specialised insoles designed to accommodate problems with the foot. In this particular condition?s case, orthotics are an effective way of making sure that the heel is cushioned in such a way as to reduce a child?s discomfort and alleviate some of the pressure of walking, thereby facilitating the recovery process. Young athletes can benefit from a visit to a podiatrist to learn about prevention and to have orthotics fitted to prevent Severs? disease from developing. Regular stretching to keep joints supple and loose are a great preventative measure, as is making sure that appropriately fitted and supportive shoes (often equipped with orthotics) are used to prevent future injury.

Surgical Treatment

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.

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