Sever's disease, or calcaneal apophysitis, is a common cause of heel pain among active children between 10 to 13 years old. This spontaneous heel pain results from injury to the heel bone?s growth plate which is caused by overuse rather than specific injury or trauma. The condition is common among athletic children, particularly those active in soccer, football, and baseball. Treatment is available to reduce pain and discomfort associated with Sever's disease, but the condition usually resolves on its own once feet stop growing.
During the growth spurt of early puberty, the heel bone (also called the calcaneus) sometimes grows faster than the leg muscles and tendons. This can cause the muscles and tendons to become very tight and overstretched, making the heel less flexible and putting pressure on the growth plate. The Achilles tendon (also called the heel cord) is the strongest tendon that attaches to the growth plate in the heel. Over time, repeated stress (force or pressure) on the already tight Achilles tendon damages the growth plate, causing the swelling, tenderness, and pain of Sever's disease. Such stress commonly results from physical activities and sports that involve running and jumping, especially those that take place on hard surfaces, such as track, basketball, soccer, and gymnastics.
On examination, the typical signs are tenderness on palpation of the heel, particularly on deep palpation at the Achilles tendon insertion. Pain on dorsiflexion of the ankle, particularly when doing active toe raises; forced dorsiflexion of the ankle is also uncomfortable. Swelling of the heel, usually mild. Calcaneal enlargement, in long-standing cases.
In Sever's disease, heel pain can be in one or both heels. It usually starts after a child begins a new sports season or a new sport. Your child may walk with a limp. The pain may increase when he or she runs or jumps. He or she may have a tendency to tiptoe. Your child's heel may hurt if you squeeze both sides toward the very back. This is called the squeeze test. Your doctor may also find that your child's heel tendons have become tight.
Non Surgical Treatment
Fortunately Severs? disease can be treated and prevented through a number of different techniques that have all proven highly effective. The heel will repair itself even without active treatment provided that the suffering foot is given a chance to heal. Typically Severs? disease will take 2-8 weeks, although in many cases it can take longer as the continuous growing of the bone can exacerbate the condition. Podiatrists have an important role in preventing Severs? disease in young athletes, and in treating the condition when it develops so children can get back on their feet as quickly as possible. Generally treatment involves stretching muscles running down to the heel to relieve tension and pain, these include the hamstrings and calf muscles, and these stretching exercises will need to be performed at least 2 or 3 times a day. RICE is a classic method of speeding up the recovery of self-healing injuries like Severs? disease. This involves Rest, the application of Ice to the injury, Compression, and finally Elevation to encourage repaid. These measures can be advised by a trained podiatrist, but it is then up to a child to carry on with regular RICE.
Although Sever's disease generally heals quickly, it can recur if long-term measures are not taken to protect the heel during a child's growing years. One of the most important is to make sure that kids wear proper shoes. Good quality, well-fitting shoes with shock-absorbent (padded) soles help to reduce pressure on the heel. The doctor may also recommend shoes with open backs, such as sandals or clogs, that do not rub on the back of the heel. Shoes that are heavy or have high heels should be avoided. Other preventive measures include continued stretching exercises and icing of the affected heel after activity.