Severs Disease The Facts

Overview

Although the name might sound pretty frightening, Sever's disease is really a common heel injury that occurs in kids. It can be painful, but is only temporary and has no long-term effects. Calcaneal apophysitis is a painful inflammation of the heel?s growth plate. It typically affects children between the ages of 8 and 14 years old, because the heel bone (calcaneus) is not fully developed until at least age 14. Until then, new bone is forming at the growth plate (physis), a weak area located at the back of the heel. When there is too much repetitive stress on the growth plate, inflammation can develop. Calcaneal apophysitis is also called Sever?s disease, although it is not a true ?disease.? It is the most common cause of heel pain in children, and can occur in one or both feet. Heel pain in children differs from the most common type of heel pain experienced by adults. While heel pain in adults usually subsides after a period of walking, pediatric heel pain generally doesn?t improve in this manner. In fact, walking typically makes the pain worse.

Causes

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

Some of the common symptoms of Sever's disease are pain in one or both heels with running and walking. The pain is originates from the point of the heel where the tendo-achilles inserts into the heel bone. Heel pain that goes away when resting. Swollen heel. Calf muscle stiffness first thing in the morning.

Diagnosis

X-rays are normal in Sever's disease, but your doctor will probably get X-rays to rule out other problems. Treatment consists of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications and use of a heel lift to relieve tension on the calcaneal apophysis. In more severe cases, phycical therapy consisting of modalities to relieve the pain, and stretching exercises may be helpful. In extreme cases, castings have been used.

Non Surgical Treatment

Treatment is primarily supportive, with rest, pain management, and activity modification. Activity modifications include the addition of low-impact activities. Gel heel cups are sold over the counter and can be used intermittently to help reduce shock in the heel, as well as take tension off of the tight Achilles?s tendon complex. Proper stretching and strengthening activities should be preformed routinely even during periods of no pain. A large study showed that approximately 85% of children affected by Sever?s disease return to full activity within a two-month time period after starting treatment.

Prevention

The best way to prevent Sever?s disease is for your child to stay flexible and stretch the hamstring, calf muscles, and the Achilles tendon before and after activity each day. It?s important to hold the stretches for 20 seconds and stretch both legs, even if there is only pain in one. If he or she only has smaller symptoms, like swelling and some tenderness, consider your child lucky. They may only have to sit out for one to two weeks during the season. The best treatment is to immediately stop the activity that caused the pain. Elevate and ice the heel for 20 minutes at a time to relieve discomfort and swelling.

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