Overview

Sever?s disease is a common cause of heel pain in children especially in the young and physically active. Severs disease is a painful bone disorder that results from inflammation (swelling) of the growth plate in the heel. A growth plate, also called an epiphyseal plate, is an area at the end of a developing bone where cartilage cells change over time into bone cells. As this occurs, the growth plates expand and unite. It is very important that damage to the growth plate is avoided.

Causes

There is no specific known cause of Sever?s disease. However, there are several common factors associated with the condition including. Tight calf muscles. Pronated foot type (rolled in towards the ankle). Children who are heavier. Puberty/growth spurts. External factors, e.g. hard surfaces or poor footwear. Increase in physical activity levels.

Symptoms

The pain is at the heel or around the Achilles tendon. This is felt commonly during exercise, particularly activities involving running or jumping. The back of the heel may also be tender to touch and there may be localised swelling. There may be stiffness in the calf muscles first thing in the morning and you may notice limping or a tendency to tiptoe.

Diagnosis

Physical examination varies depending on the severity and length of involvement. Bilateral involvement is present in approximately 60% of cases. Most patients experience pain with deep palpation at the Achilles insertion and pain when performing active toe raises. Forced dorsiflexion of the ankle also proves uncomfortable and is relieved with passive equinus positioning. Swelling may be present but usually is mild. In long-standing cases, the child may have calcaneal enlargement.

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.

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.