Addressing Severs Disease

Overview

A syndrome of heel pain in skeletally immature individuals. The formal name is: calcaneal apophysitis. The pain is thought to arise from the growth plate (apophysis) and epiphysis. It is thought to be an overuse phenomena. Overloading of the apophysis by both traction (due to Achilles tendon) and compression (sue to weightbearing) have been implicated. Reversible pathologic alterations occur in the apophysis, which cause secondary pain. It is the growth plate and its bone, at the back of the heel bone (calcaneus), whose presence allows for longitudinal growth of calcaneus.

Causes

One of the most common causes of heel pain in adolescents, Sever’s disease is an overuse injury to the growth plate of the calcaneus (heel). It is commonly seen in growing, active children 8-12 years of age. Soccer players, gymnasts, and children who do any sort of running or jumping activity have an increased risk of developing Sever’s disease. Occurring in one or both feet, Sever?s disease occurs at the back of the heel (also known as the apophysis or the insertion of the Achilles tendon).

Symptoms

The condition can be quite disabling and tends to affect those who are very busy with sporting activities. In the initial stages of the condition, most children displaying signs of Severs disease will tend to hobble or limp off the sports field or court and complain of sore heels near the end of activity. As the condition progresses, children may complain of pain during activity and in severe cases prior to sporting activities. Kids heel pain can be quite discouraging for active children but, early treatment can resolve this type of foot pain in children very quickly.

Diagnosis

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 doctor will talk with you about the best treatment plan for your child. As instructed, your child will Ice the heel 3-4 times a day for 15-20 minutes at a time. Use an ice pack or bag of frozen peas, or something similar. Never put ice directly on your child’s skin. A thin cloth or towel should be between your child?s skin and the ice pack. Take anti-inflammatory medication, such as ibuprofen, as directed. Decrease the amount of running and jumping he or she does. Stretch the heels and calves, as instructed by the doctor. Regular stretching can help prevent Sever?s from coming back. Use a ?heel cup? or a cushioned shoe insert that takes pressure off the heel. In some cases, a cast is placed on the foot and worn for several weeks.

Surgical Treatment

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.

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