Severs disease, also known as calcaneal apophysitis, is a condition in which the growth plate along the heel becomes inflamed. It most commonly occurs in active, early-teen children. Most patients with Severs disease complain of heel pain. In general the pain is exacerbated with increased activities, such as running, jumping, or climbing stairs. The pain often improves with a period of rest.
The heel bone sometimes grows faster than the leg muscles (including the calf muscles) and tendons (including the Achilles tendon) during the early puberty growth spurt. The different growth rate in these structures can cause lower leg muscles and tendons to become overstretched and tight, which makes the heel less flexible and puts excessive pressure on the heel growth plate. The Achilles tendon, the strongest tendon in the body, attaches to the heel growth plate, and repetitive stress on this structure, especially if it?s already tight, can damage the growth plate, leading to tenderness, swelling, and pain. Activities that involve running or jumping, such as soccer, gymnastics, track, and basketball, can place significant stress on a tight Achilles tendon and contribute to the onset of Sever?s disease. Ill-fitting shoes can also contribute to this health problem by failing to provide the right kind of support or by rubbing against the back of heel. The following factors may increase the likelihood of Sever?s disease in kids or young teens. Wearing footwear that is too narrow in the toe box. Leg length inequality. Obesity or carrying excess bodyweight. Excessive foot and ankle pronation.
Pain symptoms usually begin after a child begins a new sport or sporting season, and can worsen with athletic activities that involve running and jumping. It is common for a child with Sever?s disease to walk with a limp. Increased activity can lead to heel cord tightness (Achilles Tendon), resulting in pressure on the apophysis of the calcaneus. This will cause irritation of the growth plate and sometimes swelling in the heel area thus producing pain. This usually occurs in the early stages of puberty.
A physical exam of the heel will show tenderness over the back of the heel but not in the Achilles tendon or plantar fascia. There may be tightness in the calf muscle, which contributes to tension on the heel. The tendons in the heel get stretched more in patients with flat feet. There is greater impact force on the heels of athletes with a high-arched, rigid foot. The doctor may order an x-ray because x-rays can confirm how mature the growth center is and if there are other sources of heel pain, such as a stress fracture or bone cyst. However, x-rays are not necessary to diagnose Sever?s disease, and it is not possible to make the diagnosis based on the x-ray alone.
Non Surgical Treatment
The doctor might recommend that a child with Sever's disease. perform foot and leg exercises to stretch and strengthen the leg muscles and tendons, elevate and apply ice (wrapped in a towel, not applied directly to the skin) to the injured heel for 20 minutes two or three times per day, even on days when the pain is not that bad, to help reduce swelling, use an elastic wrap or compression stocking that is designed to help decrease pain and swelling, take an over-the-counter medicine to reduce pain and swelling, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin).
Stretching exercises can help. It is important that your child performs exercises to stretch the hamstring and calf muscles, and the tendons on the back of the leg. The child should do these stretches 2 or 3 times a day. Each stretch should be held for about 20 seconds. Both legs should be stretched, even if the pain is only in 1 heel. Your child also needs to do exercises to strengthen the muscles on the front of the shin. To do this, your child should sit on the floor, keeping his or her hurt leg straight. One end of a bungee cord or piece of rubber tubing is hooked around a table leg. The other end is hitched around the child's toes. The child then scoots back just far enough to stretch the cord. Next, the child slowly bends the foot toward his or her body. When the child cannot bend the foot any closer, he or she slowly points the foot in the opposite direction (toward the table). This exercise (15 repetitions of "foot curling") should be done about 3 times. The child should do this exercise routine a few times daily.