Although the name might sound pretty frightening, Sever's disease is really a common heel injury that occurs in kids. It can be painful, but is only temporary and has no long-term effects. Calcaneal apophysitis is a painful inflammation of the heel?s growth plate. It typically affects children between the ages of 8 and 14 years old, because the heel bone (calcaneus) is not fully developed until at least age 14. Until then, new bone is forming at the growth plate (physis), a weak area located at the back of the heel. When there is too much repetitive stress on the growth plate, inflammation can develop. Calcaneal apophysitis is also called Sever?s disease, although it is not a true ?disease.? It is the most common cause of heel pain in children, and can occur in one or both feet. Heel pain in children differs from the most common type of heel pain experienced by adults. While heel pain in adults usually subsides after a period of walking, pediatric heel pain generally doesn?t improve in this manner. In fact, walking typically makes the pain worse.
This condition most commonly occurs due to repetitive or prolonged activities placing strain on the heel's growth plate, typically during a period of rapid growth. These activities (or sports) usually involve excessive walking, running, jumping or hopping. Severs disease may also be more likely to occur following a poorly rehabilitated sprained ankle, in patients with poor foot biomechanics or those who use inappropriate footwear. In young athletes, this condition is commonly seen in running and jumping sports, such as football, basketball, netball and athletics.
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.
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
In general, the goals for treatment include reducing the localized areas of inflammation. We recommend that patients utilize Ibuprofen every six to eight hours as needed. Stretching exercises on a daily basis, as well as prior to activity is thought to be helpful as well. Following work-outs and increased activities, it may be helpful to apply ice over affected areas. Heel cups are also available to provide cushion in shoes. In addition, for more severe symptoms, it may be helpful to refrain from sports and/or immobilize the area for a few weeks to help reduce the inflammation.
Exercises that help to stretch the calf muscles and hamstrings are effective at treating Sever's disease. An exercise known as foot curling, in which the foot is pointed away from the body, then curled toward the body in order to help stretch the muscles, has also proven to be very effective at treating Sever's disease. The curling exercise should be done in sets of 10 or 20 repetitions, and repeated several times throughout the day.