Sever's disease, also known as calcaneal apophysitis, is an inflammatory condition of the growth plate of the heel (calcaneus). Sever's disease is seen during periods ofSever's_Disease_x-ray active bone growth, particularly between the ages of 10 and 14 years old. Sever's disease is a self limiting condition, meaning that all cases of Sever's disease will disappear once bone growth is finalized and the growth plate of the heel closes. Skeletal maturity and closure of the growth plate occurs for most children at 15-16 years of age. The onset of Sever's Disease is insidious and found more in boys than girls.
There are many contributing factors that cause strain across the growth plate, making your child prone to developing Sever?s disease. These include repeated minor trauma to the growth plate from running or jumping sports, tight calf or hamstring muscles, rapid growth spurts can lead to the leg muscles becoming tight, increasing tension on the growth plate, tight Achilles tendon, the Achilles tendon attaches to the back of the heel adjacent to the growth plate, poor foot posture, may increase the strain on the growth plate, footwear with a very low heel pitch (eg soccer boots), unsupportive or unstable footwear with poor shock absorption at the heel, running or playing sport on hard surfaces.
Symptoms include heel pain related to sports activities and worsen after those sport and exercise activities. However, some children who are not in a sport may also get this if they are physically active. If you notice that your child is ?walking on their toes? this is a sign of possible heel pain. The pain is usually on the back of the heel, the sides of the heel, the bottom of the heel, or a combination of all of these. We typically don't see swelling with this, however if pressure is applied to the sides of the heel pain may be reported. Sometimes the pain is so bad the child will have to limp, or take a break from sports activity either for a few days or few months.
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 treatment of Sever's disease depends upon the severity of symptoms experienced by the patient. Care is initiated with a simple program of stretching and heel elevation to weaken the force applied to the calcaneus by the Achilles tendon. If stretches and heel elevation are unsuccessful in controlling the symptoms of Sever's disease, children should be removed from sports and placed on restricted activities. Mild Symptoms. Wear a 3/8 heel lift at all times (not just during physical activity). It is important to use a firm lift and not a soft heel pad. Calf stretches 6/day for 60 seconds each. Calf stretches are best accomplished by standing with the toes on the edge of a stretching block. Moderate Symptoms. Follow the directions for minor symptoms and decrease activity including elimination of any athletic activity. In addition to stretching by day, a night stretching splint can be worn while sleeping. Severe Symptoms. Follow the directions for mild and moderate symptoms. Children should be removed from sports activities such as football, basketball, soccer or gym class. A below knee walking cast with a heel lift or in severe cases, non-weight bearing fiberglass cast, may be indicated for 4-6 weeks. The cast should be applied in a mildly plantar flexed position. Cam Walkers should not be used for Sever's Disease unless they have a built in heel lift.
It may take several weeks or months for the pain to completely stop. In most cases severs disease goes away on its own with a little rest and time. However if you ignore the pain and play through it, the condition may get worse and may be more difficult to treat. When the pain is completely gone, you can slowly return to your previous level of activity. With future growth spurts the pain may return therefore keep up with the stretches and follow the advice given.