Sever's disease is a common cause of heel pain, particularly in the young and physically active. During puberty the calcaneus consist of two areas of bone known as ossification centres. These two areas are divided by an area of cartilage known as the calcaneal apophysitis. See x-ray (right) for two ossification centres of heel. The Achilles tendon attaches the triceps surae (calf muscles) to the calcaneus (heel bone). As a child grows the calcaneus grow faster than the surrounding soft tissue, which means the Achilles tendon is pulled uncomfortably tight. This increase in tensile load can cause inflammation and irritation of the calcaneal apophysis (growth plate) which is known as Sever's Disease. The pain is exacerbated by physical activities, especially ones involving running or jumping. Sever's disease most commonly affects boys aged 12 to 14 years and girls aged 10 to 12 years, which corresponds with the early growth spurts of puberty.
Sever?s disease only occurs during a certain period of pre-adolescence, when the heel bone is going through a rapid growth spurt. In girls, this typically occurs around 8 to 10 years of age, and in boys, between ages 10 and 13. Sever?s disease is more common in active, athletic children. The condition is difficult to prevent completely, but changing the type and amount of physical activity when your child is experiencing pain will help.
Some of the most common signs and symptoms associated with Sever?s disease include. Heel pain or tenderness in one or both heels, usually at the back of the heel. Pain or discomfort upon waking, or when the heel is squeezed. Heel pain that is worse during or following activity. Limping. Heel swelling or redness. Tight calf muscles. Decreased ankle range of motion.
A doctor can usually tell that a child has Sever's disease based on the symptoms reported. To confirm the diagnosis, the doctor will probably examine the heels and ask about the child's activity level and participation in sports. The doctor might also use the squeeze test, squeezing the back part of the heel from both sides at the same time to see if doing so causes pain. The doctor might also ask the child to stand on tiptoes to see if that position causes pain. Although imaging tests such as X-rays generally are not that helpful in diagnosing Sever's disease, some doctors order them to rule out other problems, such as fractures. Sever's disease cannot be seen on an X-ray.
Non Surgical Treatment
Sever?s disease treatment should be based on eliminating pain and restoring normal foot and leg biomechanics. As with most soft tissue injuries the initial treatment is Rest, Ice, and Protect. In the early phase you?ll most likely be unable to walk pain-free. Our first aim is to provide you with some active rest from pain-provoking activities. "No Pain. No Gain." does not apply in Sever's disease. If it hurts your child is doing too much exercise. Your child should reduce or cease any activity that causes heel pain. Ice is a simple and effective modality to reduce your pain and swelling. Please apply for 20-30 minutes each 2 to 4 hours during the initial phase or when you notice that your injury is warm or hot. Most children can tolerate paracetamol as a pain reducing medication. Check with your doctor. To support and protect your heels, you may need to be wear shock absorbing heel cups or a soft orthotic. Kinesio foot taping may help to provide pain relief.
With proper care, your child should feel better within 2 weeks to 2 months. Your child can start playing sports again only when the heel pain is gone. Your doctor will let you know when physical activity is safe.