Severs Disease The Truth

Overview

n the growing child there are a number of different ways that bones grow. In the calcaneus (heel bone), growth comes from two separate growth plates. The lesser of the two growth plates is called the apophysis. The apophysis of the calcaneus is located between the back and the bottom of the heel at that spot that hits the ground each time we take a step. The Achilles tendon, which is the most powerful tendons in our body, attaches to the proximal aspect of the apophysis. The plantar fascia attaches to the distal aspect of the apophysis. Both the Achilles tendon and plantar fascia place traction, or pulling on the growth plate and contribute to inflammation of the secondary growth plate called apophysitis. The calcaneal apophysis is very apparent on x-ray and continues to grow until approximately age 12 in girls and age 15 in boys.

Causes

Your child is most at risk for this condition when he or she is in the early part of the growth spurt in early puberty. Sever's disease is most common in physically active girls 8 years to 10 years of age and in physically active boys 10 years to 12 years of age. Soccer players and gymnasts often get Sever's disease, but children who do any running or jumping activity may also be at an increased risk. Sever's disease rarely occurs in older teenagers because the back of the heel has typically finished growing by 15 years of age.

Symptoms

Symptoms of calcaneal apophysitis may include pain in the back or bottom of the heel, Limping, walking on toes, difficulty running, jumping, or participating in usual activities or sports. Pain when the sides of the heel are squeezed.

Diagnosis

Sever?s disease can be diagnosed based on your history and symptoms. Clinically, your physiotherapist will perform a "squeeze test" and some other tests to confirm the diagnosis. Some children suffer Sever?s disease even though they do less exercise than other. This indicates that it is not just training volume that is at play. Foot and leg biomechanics are a predisposing factor. The main factors thought to predispose a child to Sever?s disease include a decrease in ankle dorsiflexion, abnormal hind foot motion eg overpronation or supination, tight calf muscles, excessive weight-bearing activities eg running.

Non Surgical Treatment

Cold packs: Apply ice or cold packs to the back of the heels for around 15 minutes after any physical activity, including walking.

Shoe inserts: Small heel inserts worn inside the shoes can take some of the traction pressure off the Achilles tendons. This will only be required in the short term.

Medication: Pain-relieving medication may help in extreme cases, but should always be combined with other treatment and following consultation with your doctor).

Anti-inflammatory creams: Also an effective management tool.

Splinting or casting: In severe cases, it may be necessary to immobilise the lower leg using a splint or cast, but this is rare.

Time: Generally the pain will ease in one to two weeks, although there may be flare-ups from time to time.

Correction of any biomechanical issues: A physiotherapist can identify and discuss any biomechanical issues that may cause or worsen the condition.

Education: Education on how to self-manage the symptoms and flare-ups of Sever?s disease is an essential part of the treatment.

Prevention

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.

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