Sever?s disease is caused by the growth plate in the heel becoming inflamed, and it is the most common cause of heel pain in adolescents. This condition is especially prevalent in children who play sports. Treatment includes ice, rest, and pain relievers to manage pain and discomfort. Any underlying foot conditions may also need to be assessed and managed. Sever?s disease does not cause any permanent damage, and will resolve when the growth of the heel is complete. Sever?s disease (also called calcaneal apophysitis) is a condition that occurs in the growth plate of the heel bone (the calcaneus) in children and adolescents. When the muscles and tendons in the leg and heel exert too much pressure on this growth plate, swelling and pain can result.
The actual pathology of the condition is one of more of an overuse syndrome in which the growth plate of the heel may become slightly displaced, causing pain. Biopsies of similar conditions have shown changes consistent with separation of the cartilage. The cause of Sever’s disease is not entirely clear. It is most likely due to overuse or repeated minor trauma that happens in a lot of sporting activities – the cartilage join between the two parts of the bone can not take all the shear stress of the activities. Some children seem to be just more prone to it for an unknown reason, combine this with sport, especially if its on a hard surface and the risk of getting it increases. A pronated foot and tight calf muscles are common contributing factors. The condition is very similar to Osgood-Schlatters Disease which occurs at the knee.
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.
Your Podiatrist or Physiotherapist will assist in diagnosing the injury and the extent of the damage. From this, they will develop a management plan which may include rest or activity modification, soft tissue treatment such as massage and stretching, correction of biomechanics through heel raises or orthoses and the progression through a series of specific strengthening exercises.
Non Surgical Treatment
A physiotherapist will assess your pain, presentation and biomechanics. They can then treat your sever?s disease with hands on techniques which may include massage, manual therapy and taping. Your physiotherapist can then provide advice on what you can do at home to further progress your treatment, this may include stretching, strengthening and activity modification. In some cases orthotic prescription may be of benefit.
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.