Sever?s disease (also known as calcaneal apophysitis) is a type of bone injury in which the growth plate in the lower back of the heel, where the Achilles tendon (the heel cord that attaches to the growth plate) attaches, becomes inflamed and causes pain. Sever?s disease is the most common cause of heel pain in children, especially those who exercise or play sports on a regular basis.
Severs disease is often associated with a rapid growth spurt. As the bones get longer, the muscles and tendons become tighter as they cannot keep up with the bone growth. The point at which the achilles tendon attaches to the heel becomes inflamed and the bone starts to crumble (a lot like osgood schlatters disease of the knee). Tight calf muscles may contribute as the range of motion at the ankle is reduced resulting in more strain on the achilles tendon. Sever's disease is the second most common injury of this type which is known as an apophysitis.
Symptoms include Heel Pain. Pain at the back of the heels when walking or running. Possibly a lump at the back of the heel, although this might be minimal. Pain and tenderness at the back of the heels, especially if you press on it, or give it a squeeze from the sides. Tight calf muscles resulting in reduced ankle range of motion.
Children or adolescents who are experiencing pain and discomfort in their feet should be evaluated by a physician. In some cases, no imaging tests are needed to diagnose Sever?s disease. A podiatrist or other healthcare professional may choose to order an x-ray or imaging study, however, to ensure that there is no other cause for the pain, such as a fracture. Sever?s disease will not show any findings on an x-ray because it affects cartilage.
Non Surgical Treatment
Your child's healthcare provider will ask about your child's symptoms and examine your child's feet and heels. Any of the following may be done to treat your child's pain. NSAIDs help decrease swelling and pain or fever. This medicine is available with or without a doctor's order. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people. If your child takes blood thinner medicine, always ask if NSAIDs are safe for him. Always read the medicine label and follow directions. Do not give these medicines to children under 6 months of age without direction from your child's doctor. Acetaminophen decreases pain and fever. It is available without a doctor's order. Ask how much your child should take and how often to take it. Follow directions. Acetaminophen can cause liver damage if not taken correctly. Rest will decrease swelling, and keep the heel pain from getting worse. Your child may need to decrease his regular training or exercise. He may need to completely stop running and doing other activities that put pressure on his heel until his heel pain is gone. Ask your child's healthcare provider about activities that do not put pressure on the heel. Ice should be applied on your child's heel for 15 to 20 minutes every hour or as directed. Use an ice pack, or put crushed ice in a plastic bag. Cover it with a towel. Ice helps prevent tissue damage and decreases swelling and pain. Stretching and strengthening exercises may be recommended. A healthcare provider may teach your child exercises to stretch the hamstring and calf muscles and the tendons on the back of the leg. Other exercises will help strengthen the muscles on the front of the lower leg. Your child may be told to stop exercising if he feels any pain. Shoe inserts may be needed. Your child's healthcare provider may give you heel pads or cups for your child's shoes to decrease pressure on the heel bone. You may also be given shoe inserts with firm arch support and a heel lift. Make sure your child wears good quality shoes with padded soles. Your child should not walk barefoot. An elastic wrap or compression stocking may be needed. Your child's healthcare provider may want your child to use a wrap or stocking to help decrease swelling and pain. Ask how to apply the wrap or stocking.
The following exercises are commonly prescribed to patients with Severs disease. You should discuss the suitability of these exercises with your physiotherapist prior to beginning them. Generally, they should be performed 1 - 3 times daily and only provided they do not cause or increase symptoms. Your physiotherapist can advise when it is appropriate to begin the initial exercises and eventually progress to the intermediate, advanced and other exercises. As a general rule, addition of exercises or progression to more advanced exercises should take place provided there is no increase in symptoms. Calf Stretch with Towel. Begin this stretch in long sitting with your leg to be stretched in front of you. Your knee and back should be straight and a towel or rigid band placed around your foot as demonstrated. Using your foot, ankle and the towel, bring your toes towards your head as far as you can go without pain and provided you feel no more than a mild to moderate stretch in the back of your calf, Achilles tendon or leg. Hold for 5 seconds and repeat 10 times at a mild to moderate stretch provided the exercise is pain free. Calf Stretch with Towel. Begin this exercise with a resistance band around your foot and your foot and ankle held up towards your head. Slowly move your foot and ankle down against the resistance band as far as possible and comfortable without pain, tightening your calf muscle. Very slowly return back to the starting position. Repeat 10 - 20 times provided the exercise is pain free. Once you can perform 20 repetitions consistently without pain, the exercise can be progressed by gradually increasing the resistance of the band provided there is no increase in symptoms. Bridging. Begin this exercise lying on your back in the position demonstrated. Slowly lift your bottom pushing through your feet, until your knees, hips and shoulders are in a straight line. Tighten your bottom muscles (gluteals) as you do this. Hold for 2 seconds then slowly lower your bottom back down. Repeat 10 times provided the exercise is pain free.