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 is an osteochondrosis caused by overloading the insertion of the Achilles tendon onto the calcaneus and the apophyseal growth plate in this area. This C-shaped growth zone can become inflamed secondary to repetitive traction stress of the Achilles tendon. Calcaneal apophysitis is a common injury in young athletes and is believed to be caused by running and jumping. Active Children and adolescents (usual age of occurrence 7 to 15 years), particularly during the pubertal growth spurt or at the beginning of a sport season (e.g. gymnasts, basketball and football players), often suffer from this condition. This disease occurs most commonly during the early part of the growth spurt. A boy-to-girl ratio is 2-3:1. None of these causative factors has been tested prospectively and, where tested, none of the measurements has been carried out systematically, and reliability or validity of the measurements has not been considered.
Acute pain, pain asscoiatied with Sever?s disease is usually felt in the heel when the child engages in physical activity such as walking, jumping and or running. Highly active – children who are very active are among the most susceptible in experiencing Sever?s disease, because of the stress and tension placed on their feet.
You may have pain when your doctor squeezes your heel bone. You may have pain when asked to stand or walk on your toes or on your heels. You may have pain in your heel when your doctor stretches your calf muscles. Your doctor may order x-rays of the injured foot to show an active growth plate.
Non Surgical Treatment
The doctor might recommend that a child with Sever’s disease perform foot and leg exercises to stretch and strengthen the leg muscles and tendons, elevate and apply ice (wrapped in a towel, not applied directly to the skin) to the injured heel for 20 minutes two or three times per day, even on days when the pain is not that bad, to help reduce swelling, use an elastic wrap or compression stocking that is designed to help decrease pain and swelling, take an over-the-counter medicine to reduce pain and swelling, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin). Children should not be given aspirin for pain due to the risk of a very serious illness called Reye syndrome. In very severe cases, the doctor might recommend that the child wear a cast for anywhere from 2 to 12 weeks to immobilize the foot so that it can heal.
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.