Sever?s disease, or calcaneal apophysitis, is a common cause of heel pain in patients whose bones are still growing; however, it is not really a disease. The pain is caused by stress at the point where the Achilles tendon meets tissue called the plantar fascia on the growth plate (apophysis) of the heel bone (calcaneus).
Sever's affects boys more often than girls. Boys are most often affected at age 12, and girls at age 9, though Sever's is typically seen in children and adolescents between the ages of 7 and 15.
Physically active children run the risk of developing Sever?s disease because they put the most strain on their growing bones. Sever?s usually occurs during the adolescent growth spurt, when young people grow most rapidly. (This growth spurt can begin any time between the ages of 8 and 13 for girls and 10 and 15 for boys.) By age 15 the back of the heel usually finished growing. As teens grow, the growth plates harden and the growing bones fuse together into mature bone. Young people engaged in physical activities and sports that involve jumping and running on hard surfaces-such as track, basketball, soccer, and gymnastics-are ata higher risk for developing Sever?s disease. Poor-fitting shoes can contribute by not providing enough support or padding for the feet or by rubbing against the back of the heel.
The most common symptoms of Sever?s involves pain or tenderness in one or both heels. This pain usually occurs at the back of the heel, but can also extend to the sides and bottom of the heel. A child with Sever?s may also have these common problems. Heel pain with limping, especially after running. Difficulty walking. Discomfort or stiffness in the feet upon awaking. Swelling and redness in the heel. Symptoms are usually worse during or after activity and get better with rest.
A doctor can usually tell that a child has Sever's disease based on the symptoms reported. To confirm the diagnosis, the doctor will probably examine the heels and ask about the child's activity level and participation in sports. The doctor might also use the squeeze test, squeezing the back part of the heel from both sides at the same time to see if doing so causes pain. The doctor might also ask the child to stand on tiptoes to see if that position causes pain. Although imaging tests such as X-rays generally are not that helpful in diagnosing Sever's disease, some doctors order them to rule out other problems, such as fractures. Sever's disease cannot be seen on an X-ray.
Non Surgical Treatment
Treatment revolves around decreasing activity. Usual treatment has been putting children in a boot in slight equinus, or a cast with the foot in slight equinus, thereby decreasing the tension on the heel cord, which in turn pulls on the growth plate at the heel. As the pain resolves, children are allowed to go back to full activities. Complete resolution may be delayed until growth of the foot is complete (when the growth plate fuses to the rest of the bone of the heel). A soft cushioning heel raise is really important (this reduces the pull from the calf muscles on the growth plate and increases the shock absorption, so the growth plate is not knocked around as much). The use of an ice pack after activity for 20mins is often useful for calcaneal apophysitis, this should be repeated 2 to 3 times a day. As a pronated foot is common in children with this problem, a discussion regarding the use of long term foot orthotics may be important. If the symptoms are bad enough and are not responding to these measures, medication to help with inflammation 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.
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.