Also known as calcaneal apophysitis, Severs? disease is a condition that primarily affects children between the ages of 7 and 15. The condition is typified by pain in the heel which can affect movement, and as a foot condition, comes under the care of podiatrists. Podiatrists are specially trained professionals who specialise in any and all ailments of the foot and ankle. Podiatrists dealing with Severs? disease are typically podopaediatricians, individuals who have received training in the delivery of childhood care.
A big tendon called the Achilles tendon joins the calf muscle at the back of the leg to the heel. Sever?s disease is thought to occur because of a mismatch in growth of the calf bones to the calf muscle and Achilles tendon. If the bones grow faster than the muscles, the Achilles tendon that attaches the muscle to the heel gets tight. At the same time, until the cartilage of the calcaneum is ossified (turned into bone), it is a potential weak spot. The tight calf muscle and Achilles tendon cause a traction injury on this weak spot, resulting in inflammation and pain. Sever?s disease most commonly affects boys aged ten to 12 years and girls aged nine to 11 years, when growth spurts are beginning. Sever?s disease heals itself with time, so it is known as self-limiting. There is no evidence to suggest that Sever?s disease causes any long term problems or complications.
The most prominent symptom of Sever’s disease is heel pain which is usually aggravated by physical activity such as walking, running or jumping. The pain is localized to the posterior and plantar side of the heel over the calcaneal apophysis. Sometimes, the pain may be so severe that it may cause limping and interfere with physical performance in sports. External appearance of the heel is almost always normal, and signs of local disease such as edema, erythema (redness) is absent. The main diagnostic tool is pain on medial- lateral compression of the calcaneus in the area of growth plate, so called squeeze test. Foot radiographs are usually normal. Therefore the diagnosis of Sever’s disease is primarily clinical.
To diagnose the cause of the child?s heel pain and rule out other more serious conditions, the foot and ankle surgeon obtains a thorough medical history and asks questions about recent activities. The surgeon will also examine the child?s foot and leg. X-rays are often used to evaluate the condition. Other advanced imaging studies and laboratory tests may also be ordered.
Non Surgical Treatment
If the problem is bad enough, it is important to totally rest the symptomatic foot. Take a break from sport activity until the pain has significant improvement. Severe cases will need to be treated with a cast boot. Anti-inflammatory treatments include Icing, Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medicine as recommended by your pediatrician or podiatrist. Shock absorption and support. Don’t go barefoot at home, wear some type of good sandal or shoe. A significant and/or chronic case should be treated with prescription orthotics. This addresses mechanical problems that cause this problem, Using an over-the-counter heel cushion inside of the shoe, Athletic foot taping, Stretching. Runners stretch to stretch out the calf muscle. A night splint will also help. Severe or chronic cases respond best to prescription orthotics with specific modifications for this problem. May require a night splint. Daytime braces that may also help.
Stretching exercises can help. It is important that your child performs exercises to stretch the hamstring and calf muscles, and the tendons on the back of the leg. The child should do these stretches 2 or 3 times a day. Each stretch should be held for about 20 seconds. Both legs should be stretched, even if the pain is only in 1 heel. Your child also needs to do exercises to strengthen the muscles on the front of the shin. To do this, your child should sit on the floor, keeping his or her hurt leg straight. One end of a bungee cord or piece of rubber tubing is hooked around a table leg. The other end is hitched around the child’s toes. The child then scoots back just far enough to stretch the cord. Next, the child slowly bends the foot toward his or her body. When the child cannot bend the foot any closer, he or she slowly points the foot in the opposite direction (toward the table). This exercise (15 repetitions of “foot curling”) should be done about 3 times. The child should do this exercise routine a few times daily.