Sever?s disease, or calcaneal apophysitis, is a common cause of heel pain in patients whose bones are still growing; however, it is not really a disease. The pain is caused by stress at the point where the Achilles tendon meets tissue called the plantar fascia on the growth plate (apophysis) of the heel bone (calcaneus).
Sever's affects boys more often than girls. Boys are most often affected at age 12, and girls at age 9, though Sever's is typically seen in children and adolescents between the ages of 7 and 15.
Apart from age, other factors that may contribute to developing Sever?s disease include physical activity, any form of exercise that is weight bearing through the legs or stresses the soft tissue can exacerbate the pain of the disease. External factors, for example, running on hard surfaces or wearing inappropriate shoes during sport. Overuse injury, very active children may repeatedly but subtly injure the bones, muscles and tendons of their feet and ankles. In time, the accumulated injuries cause symptoms.
Signs and symptoms of Sever?s disease include heel pain can be in one or both heels, and it can come and go over time. Many children walk or run with a limp, they may walk on their toes to avoid pressure on their heels. Heel pain may increase with running or jumping, wearing stiff, hard shoes (ex. soccer cleats, flip-flops) or walking barefoot. The pain may begin after increasing physical activity, such as trying a new sport or starting a new sports season.
A doctor can usually tell that a child has Sever's disease based on the symptoms reported. To confirm the diagnosis, the doctor will probably examine the heels and ask about the child's activity level and participation in sports. The doctor might also use the squeeze test, squeezing the back part of the heel from both sides at the same time to see if doing so causes pain. The doctor might also ask the child to stand on tiptoes to see if that position causes pain. Although imaging tests such as X-rays generally are not that helpful in diagnosing Sever's disease, some doctors order them to rule out other problems, such as fractures. Sever's disease cannot be seen on an X-ray.
Non Surgical Treatment
The following are different treatment options Rest and modify activity. Limit running and high-impact activity to rest the heel and lessen the pain. Choose one running or jumping sport to play at a time. Substitute low-impact cross-training activities to maintain cardiovascular fitness. This can include biking, swimming, using a stair-climber or elliptical machine, rowing, or inline skating. Reduce inflammation. Ice for at least 20 minutes after activity or when pain increases. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may also help. Stretch the calf. Increase calf flexibility by doing calf stretches for 30 to 45 seconds several times per day. Protect the heel. The shoe may need to be modified to provide the proper heel lift or arch support. Select a shoe with good arch support and heel lift if possible. Try heel lifts or heel cups in sports shoes, especially cleats. Try arch support in cleats if flat feet contribute to the problem. Take it one step at a time. Gradually resume running and impact activities as symptoms allow. Sever?s disease usually goes away when the growth plate (apophysis) matures, which should be by age 12 to 13 years in females and 13 to 14 years in males.
The surgeon may select one or more of the following options to treat calcaneal apophysitis. Reduce activity. The child needs to reduce or stop any activity that causes pain. Support the heel. Temporary shoe inserts or custom orthotic devices may provide support for the heel. Medications. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, help reduce the pain and inflammation. Physical therapy. Stretching or physical therapy modalities are sometimes used to promote healing of the inflamed issue. Immobilization. In some severe cases of pediatric heel pain, a cast may be used to promote healing while keeping the foot and ankle totally immobile. Often heel pain in children returns after it has been treated because the heel bone is still growing. Recurrence of heel pain may be a sign of calcaneal apophysitis, or it may indicate a different problem. If your child has a repeat bout of heel pain, be sure to make an appointment with your foot and ankle surgeon.