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What Exactly Is Severs Disease?

Overview

Sever's disease or calcaneal apophysitis, is the most common cause of heel pain in the growing athlete and is due to overuse and repetitive microtrauma of growth plates of the calcaneus in the heel. It occurs in children ages 7 to 15, with the majority of patients presenting between 10 and 12 years of age.

Causes

Your child?s heel bone keeps forming new bone until the late teens. The new bone is weak and can be damaged by running or pounding on hard surfaces, like during a basketball game. The new bone may also be irritated by shoes with poor padding in the heels or poor arch supports.

Symptoms

Sever?s disease is more common in boys. They tend to have later growth spurts and typically get the condition between the ages of 10 and 15. In girls, it usually happens between 8 and 13. Symptoms can include pain, swelling, or redness in one or both heels, tenderness and tightness in the back of the heel that feels worse when the area is squeezed. Heel pain that gets worse after running or jumping, and feels better after rest. The pain may be especially bad at the beginning of a sports season or when wearing hard, stiff shoes like soccer cleats. Trouble walking. Walking or running with a limp or on tip toes.

Diagnosis

Sever's disease is based on the symptoms reported. To confirm the diagnosis, the clinician will examine the heels and ask about the child's activity level and participation in sports. They may also squeeze the back part of the heel from both sides at the same time to see if doing so causes pain and also ask the child to stand on tiptoes to see if that position causes pain. There may be tightness in the calf muscle, which contributes to tension on the heel. Symptoms are usually worse during or after activity and get better with rest. X-rays generally are not that helpful in diagnosing Sever's disease, but they may be ordered to rule out other problems, such as fractures. Sever's disease cannot be seen on an X-ray.

Non Surgical Treatment

Management consists of explanation of what's happening and advice on activity modification to get it to settle. Icing after activity and heating during breaks in activity also often help. Local treatment with electrotherapy may be indicated in the acute stage or to help settle pain for a specific activity/competition. Stretches will be advised and the child may require orthotics to control foot position. A heel raise or heel cups may also help. Strapping may be of some benefit. The mainstay of treatment however is the icing and activity modification and reassurance that the condition is self-limiting, this may take up to 2 years.

Prevention

Perform a well rounded dynamic warm up before activity. Perform a good static stretching routine after activity. Increase core strength. Perform exercises that emphasize active lengthening of the calf muscles. Use proper footwear. Avoid excessive running or jumping on hard surfaces like concrete by using better surfaces such as asphalt, gymnasium floors or grass.
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