What is sever’s disease? sever’s disease is a common cause of heel pain in active children. Sever’s disease, also called calcaneal apophysitis, occurs when the growth plate of the heel is injured by excessive forces during early adolescence.
Severs disease arises due to a traction of the Achilles Tendon from the heel bone or from excessive impact forces to the area during peak growing periods. Most children will present with one or many of the following backgrounds. Recent periods of rapid growth/changes of body mass/strength. Overuse, Multiple sporting clubs, multiple sports, high intensity of training. Poor footwear (insufficient heel height). Training errors. Tight surrounding muscles. Osseous growth proceeds that of the soft tissue. Poor biomechanics and posture (excessive pronation/flat feet).
The typical clinical presentation is an active child (aged 9-10 years) who complains of pain at the posterior heel that is made worse by sports, especially those involving running or jumping. The onset is usually gradual. Often, the pain has been relieved somewhat with rest and consequently has been patiently monitored by the patient, parents, coaches, trainers, and family physicians, in the expectation that it will resolve. When the pain continues to interfere with sports performance and then with daily activities, further consultation is sought. It should be kept in mind that failure to instruct patients and parents that continual pain, significant swelling or redness, and fever are not signs of Sever disease and therefore require further evaluation could result in failure to diagnose a condition with much more serious long-term consequences.
Low-grade inflammation of the calcaneal apophysis cannot be seen on x-ray. Therefore, although x-rays are often done to rule out bony injuries in children with Sever’s disease these x-rays are usually normal. Advanced Sever’s disease can be seen on x-ray but usually the problem is treated before it reaches this point. Other diagnostic tests, such as bone scans or MRI’s, are not usually required in typical cases of Sever’s disease. These, or other tests, may be required to rule out other conditions, such as stress fractures of the calcaneus or other bony abnormalities that can mimic Severs disease.
Non Surgical Treatment
Treatment may consist of one or more of the following. Elevating the heel. Stretching hamstring and calf muscles 2-3 times daily. Using R.I.C.E. (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation). Foot orthotics. Medication. Physical therapy. Icing daily (morning). Heating therapy. Open back shoe are best and avoid high heel shoe. The Strickland Protocol has shown a positive response in patients with a mean return to sport in less than 3 weeks. Further research into the anatomical and biomechanical responses of this protocol are currently being undertaken.
For children with Sever’s disease, it is important to habitually perform exercises to stretch the hamstrings, calf muscles, and the tendons on the back of the leg. Stretching should be performed 2-3 times a day. Each stretch should be performed for 20 seconds, and both legs should be stretched, even if the pain is only in one heel. Heel cups or an inner shoe heel lifts are often recommended for patient suffering from Sever’s disease. Wearing running shoes with built in heel cups can also decrease the symptoms because they can help soften the impact on the heel when walking, running, or standing.