Severs disease or calcaneal apophysitis causes heel pain usually in growing children between age nine and fourteen. It occurs as a result of disturbance during the final development of the heel growth plate. During this time the achilles tendon is pulling strongly on the heel bone and this excessive force can cause inflammation and pain.
The foot is one of the first body parts to grow to full size. During the time of growth, bones grow faster than muscles and tendons. This results in the muscles and tendons becoming tight. The strongest tendon that attaches to the heel is the Achilles Tendon. It attaches to the back of the heel at the site of the growth plate, and during sports activities it pulls with great force on the growth plate. If this pull by the tight Achilles Tendon (calf muscle) continues for long periods of time, the growth plate may become inflamed and painful. If exertive activities continue, Sever's Disease may result.
Sever?s disease is a clinical diagnosis based on the youth?s presenting symptoms, rather than on diagnostic tests. While x-rays may be ordered in the process of diagnosing the disease, they are used primarily to rule out bone fractures or other bone abnormalities, rather than to confirm the disease. Common Characteristics of Sever?s Disease include Posterior inferior heel pain. Pain is usually absent when waking in the morning. Increased pain with weight bearing, running, or jumping (or activity-related pain). Area often feels stiff or inflexible. Youth may limp at the end of physical activity. Tenderness at the insertion of the tendons. Limited ankle dorsiflexion range that is secondary to tightness of the Achilles tendon. Activity or sport practices on hard surfaces can also contribute to pain, as well as poor quality shoes, worn out shoes, or the wrong shoes for the sport. Typically, the pain from this disease gradually resolves with rest.
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
Ice the heel(s) well after exercise (until the area is cold and numb!) Stretch hamstring and calf muscles 2-3 times daily (exercises below) REST when pain becomes persistent or moderate (even if it means skipping games or practices.) Anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen. If symptoms persist, your child may need to see a physical therapist for additional exercises, and/or an orthopedist for othotics or temporary casting/crutches if pain is severe. Sever?s disease is self-recovering, meaning that it will go away on its own when the heels are rested or when the bone is through growing. The condition is not expected to create any long-term disability, and expected to subside in 2-8 weeks. However, pain can recur, for example at the start of a new sports season, several times if it is not taken care of.
The best way to prevent Sever's disease is to make sure that your child wears shoes that fit properly. The heel portion of the shoe should not be too tight, and there should be good padding in the heel. It may help to put extra heel pads in your child's shoes. Some children simply get too much physical activity. For example, they may play on too many teams or practice for too long. Their heel pain is a message to slow down.