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 theories as to the cause of this condition. These range from a tight Achilles tendon, to micro stress fractures of the calcaneal apopyhsis. The prevailing theory suggests that the condition occurs when the child's growth plate is at its weakest. Combined with increased athletic activity, improper shoe gear and trauma the heel becomes inflamed and painful.
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.
To diagnose the cause of the child?s heel pain and rule out other more serious conditions, the foot and ankle surgeon obtains a thorough medical history and asks questions about recent activities. The surgeon will also examine the child?s foot and leg. X-rays are often used to evaluate the condition. Other advanced imaging studies and laboratory tests may also be ordered.
Non Surgical Treatment
Treatment revolves around decreasing activity. Usual treatment has been putting children in a boot in slight equinus, or a cast with the foot in slight equinus, thereby decreasing the tension on the heel cord, which in turn pulls on the growth plate at the heel. As the pain resolves, children are allowed to go back to full activities. Complete resolution may be delayed until growth of the foot is complete (when the growth plate fuses to the rest of the bone of the heel). A soft cushioning heel raise is really important (this reduces the pull from the calf muscles on the growth plate and increases the shock absorption, so the growth plate is not knocked around as much). The use of an ice pack after activity for 20mins is often useful for calcaneal apophysitis, this should be repeated 2 to 3 times a day. As a pronated foot is common in children with this problem, a discussion regarding the use of long term foot orthotics may be important. If the symptoms are bad enough and are not responding to these measures, medication to help with inflammation may be needed. In some cases the lower limb may need to be put in a cast for 2-6 weeks to give it a good chance to heal.
To reduce the risk of heel pain or sore heels from Sever?s Disease. Only wear properly fitting shoes. A lace up shoe with a firm heel counter. Stretch calf and foot before exercising or playing sports. Properly taping the foot provides excellent protection and immediate pain relief. Wear shoe inserts or an over-the-counter orthotic. If the problem persists, consult your foot doctor.