Sever's disease (calcaneal apophysitis) is a common cause of heel pain, particularly in physically active young people who are about to begin puberty. The cause is uncertain, but it is thought that the long calf bones of the leg grow faster than the surrounding muscle and soft tissue, causing the Achilles tendon to pull uncomfortably tight. Sever?s disease (sometimes called Sever disease) is a common cause of heel pain, particularly in the young and physically active. It usually develops just before puberty. Boys are slightly more prone to this condition than girls. Physiotherapy can help manage the symptoms of Sever?s disease so that the young person can continue to take part in physical activity. Another name for Sever?s disease is calcaneal apophysitis.
There are several causes of heel pain in the young athletic population with the most common being calcaneal apophysitis (also referred to as Sever?s disease). Sever first reported calcaneal apophysitis in 1912 as an inflammation of the apophysis, causing discomfort to the heel, mild swelling and difficulty walking in growing children. The condition usually manifests between the ages of 8 and 14 with a higher incidence in boys than girls. In reality, however, calcaneal apophysitis is being diagnosed more frequently in girls due to their increase in participating in sports such as soccer, basketball and softball.
The most obvious sign of Sever's disease is pain or tenderness in one or both heels, usually at the back. The pain also might extend to the sides and bottom of the heel, ending near the arch of the foot. A child also may have these related problems, swelling and redness in the heel, difficulty walking, discomfort or stiffness in the feet upon awaking, discomfort when the heel is squeezed on both sides, an unusual walk, such as walking with a limp or on tiptoes to avoid putting pressure on the heel. Symptoms are usually worse during or after activity and get better with rest.
This can include physical examination and x-ray evaluation. X-rays may show some increased density or sclerosis of the apophysis (island of bone on the back of the heel). This problem may be on one side or bilateral.
Non Surgical Treatment
Initially, Sever?s Disease is treated with rest, anti-inflammatory medication and softer shoes. Ice followed by heat is a common practice and heel cup orthotics have worked wonders for our young patients in the past. It can take anywhere from a few weeks to a year for these growth plates to naturally close - at which point Sever?s Disease disappears. Even though the condition does heal on its own, athletes are encouraged to seek treatment, rather than push through the pain. Simply ?dealing with it? and continuing to play sports despite the injury could lead to an impaired gait, a strained hip or a knee injury. Stretches to strengthen the leg muscles, leg compression wraps and over-the-counter acetaminophen or ibuprofen are also recommended treatments. In very rare cases, a podiatrist may recommend wearing a cast for two to twelve weeks.
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.