Sever?s disease, also known as calcaneal apophysitis, is a common heel problem affecting children. This heel bone disorder is often painful, though it?s usually temporary and causes no long-term health effects. With Sever?s disease, the Achilles tendon repeatedly pulls on the heel?s growth plate, causing microtrauma (i.e. microfractures), inflammation, and swelling in the affected area. Sever?s disease is similar to Osgood-Schlatter disease, which affects the knee. Inappropriate footwear may be a contributing factor in the onset of this condition.
The cause of Sever's Disease is not entirely clear but it is most likely due to repeated minor trauma that occurs during high-impact activities that involve running and jumping such as soccer, basketball, and gymnastics. It may also occur when an active child regularly wears shoes with poor heel padding, shock absorbency, or poor arch support. Some additional contributing factors are excessive pronation, an overly tight calf muscle, and other flaws in the biomechanics of a child's walking stride. Children who are overweight are also at greater risk of developing Sever's Disease.
A few signs and symptoms point to Sever?s disease, which may affect one or both heels. These include pain at the heel or around the Achilles tendon, Heel pain during physical exercise, especially activities that require running or jumping, worsening of pain after exercise, a tender swelling or bulge on the heel that is sore to touch, calf muscle stiffness first thing in the morning, limping, a tendency to tiptoe.
A physical exam of the heel will show tenderness over the back of the heel but not in the Achilles tendon or plantar fascia. There may be tightness in the calf muscle, which contributes to tension on the heel. The tendons in the heel get stretched more in patients with flat feet. There is greater impact force on the heels of athletes with a high-arched, rigid foot. The doctor may order an x-ray because x-rays can confirm how mature the growth center is and if there are other sources of heel pain, such as a stress fracture or bone cyst. However, x-rays are not necessary to diagnose Sever?s disease, and it is not possible to make the diagnosis based on the x-ray alone.
Non Surgical Treatment
The immediate goal of treatment is pain relief. Because symptoms generally worsen with activity, the main treatment for Sever's disease is rest, which helps to relieve pressure on the heel bone, decreasing swelling and reducing pain. As directed by the doctor, a child should cut down on or avoid all activities that cause pain until all symptoms are gone, especially running barefoot or on hard surfaces because hard impact on the feet can worsen pain and inflammation. The child might be able to do things that do not put pressure on the heel, such as swimming and biking, but check with a doctor first. The doctor might also 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.