Diagnosing Severs Disease

Overview

Sever's disease or calcaneal apophysitis heel pain is a common problem with children between the ages of 8 to 13 years. It has usually been more common in boys, but with the increase of girls in athletic activities, both sexes are having equal symptoms. A high percentage of these children have tight achilles tendons and hamstrings. This condition may occur in the foot with normal arch height or flat or pronated foot, but can be especially painful in the high arch foot.

Causes

Sever's disease can result from standing too long, which puts constant pressure on the heel. Poor-fitting shoes can contribute to the condition by not providing enough support or padding for the feet or by rubbing against the back of the heel. Although Sever's disease can occur in any child, these conditions increase the chances of it happening. Pronated foot (a foot that rolls in at the ankle when walking), which causes tightness and twisting of the Achilles tendon, thus increasing its pull on the heel's growth plate. Flat or high arch, which affects the angle of the heel within the foot, causing tightness and shortening of the Achilles tendon. Short leg syndrome (one leg is shorter than the other), which causes the foot on the short leg to bend downward to reach the ground, pulling on the Achilles tendon. Overweight or obesity, which puts weight-related pressure on the growth plate.

Symptoms

As a parent, you may notice your child limping while walking or running awkwardly. If you ask them to rise onto their tip toes, their heel pain usually increases. Heel pain can be felt in one or both heels in Sever's disease.

Diagnosis

This condition is self limiting, it will go away when the two parts of bony growth join together, this is natural. Unfortunately, Sever's disease can be very painful and limit sport activity of the child while waiting for it to go away, so treatment is often advised to help relieve it. In a few cases of Sever's disease, the treatment is not successful and these children will be restricted in their activity levels until the two growth areas join, usually around the age of 16 years. There are no known long term complications associated with Sever's disease.

Non Surgical Treatment

If your child have Sever's disease, the following is suggested, cut back on sporting activities, don't stop, just reduce the amount until symptoms improve (if the condition has been present for a while, a total break from sport may be needed later) avoid going barefoot, a soft cushioning heel raise is really important (this reduces the pull from the calf muscles on the growth plate and increases the shock absorption, so the growth plate is not knocked around as much). Stretch the calf muscles, provided the stretch does not cause pain in the area of the growth plate). The use of an ice pack after activity for 20mins is often useful for calcaneal apophysitis - this should be repeated 2 to 3 times a day.

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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