Sever's disease or Calcaneal apophysitis is a condition that affects children between the ages of 10 and 13 years. It is characterized by pain in one or both heels with walking. During this phase of life, growth of the bone is taking place at a faster rate than the tendons. Hence there is a relative shortening of the heel-cord compared to the leg bones. As a result, the tension the heel-cord applies to the heel bone at its insertion is very great. Moreover, the heel cord is attached to a portion of the calcaneus (heel bone) that is still immature, consisting of a mixture of bone and growing cartilage, called the calcaneal apophysis, which is prone to injury. Compounding to this is the fact that all these changes are happening in a very active child, prone to overuse. The end result is therefore an overuse syndrome of injury and inflammation at the heel where the heel cord (Achilles Tendonitis) inserts into the heel bone (Calcaneal apophysitis).
This condition is more common in boys than girls. It generally presents between the ages of 9-14 and peaks between ages 10-12 years. This injury can reoccur up until the age of 17, when the growth plate of the calcaneous generally closes. These types of injuries will commonly occur during periods of rapid growth. Sever?s Disease occurs more frequently in child with flat feet, but all children with flat feet will not get Sever?s.
In Sever?s disease, heel pain can be in one or both heels. It usually starts after a child begins a new sports season or a new sport. Your child may walk with a limp. The pain may increase when he or she stands on tiptoe. Your child?s heel may hurt if you squeeze both sides toward the very back. This is called the squeeze test. Your provider may also find that your child?s heel tendons have become tight.
Sever's disease is diagnosed based on a doctor?s physical examination of the lower leg, ankle, and foot. If the diagnosis is in question, the doctor may order X-rays or an MRI to determine if there are other injuries that may be causing the heel pain.
Non Surgical Treatment
Treatment is primarily supportive, with rest, pain management, and activity modification. Activity modifications include the addition of low-impact activities. Gel heel cups are sold over the counter and can be used intermittently to help reduce shock in the heel, as well as take tension off of the tight Achilles?s tendon complex. Proper stretching and strengthening activities should be preformed routinely even during periods of no pain. A large study showed that approximately 85% of children affected by Sever?s disease return to full activity within a two-month time period after starting treatment.
Properly stretching to maintain flexibility is effective for preventing Sever's disease. Stretches should target the calves, heel cords, and hamstrings. Your child should do the appropriate stretches two or three times a day, holding the stretch for about 20 seconds each time. Ask your child's doctor for specific exercise instructions. Generally, doctors advise stretching both legs, even if the pain is confined to one heel. It's also helpful to strengthen the shin muscles by having your youngster pull his toes in with a rubber exercise band or a piece of tubing and then stretch them forward. Assist your child in doing 15 repetitions of this exercise, three times a day. Having your child wear shoes with good shock absorbers and avoid running on hard surfaces as much as possible should also help prevent the condition.