Severs Disease The Facts
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).
Physically active children run the risk of developing Sever?s disease because they put the most strain on their growing bones. Sever?s usually occurs during the adolescent growth spurt, when young people grow most rapidly. (This growth spurt can begin any time between the ages of 8 and 13 for girls and 10 and 15 for boys.) By age 15 the back of the heel usually finished growing. As teens grow, the growth plates harden and the growing bones fuse together into mature bone. Young people engaged in physical activities and sports that involve jumping and running on hard surfaces-such as track, basketball, soccer, and gymnastics-are ata higher risk for developing Sever?s disease. Poor-fitting shoes can contribute by not providing enough support or padding for the feet or by rubbing against the back of the heel.
Chief complaint is heel pain which increases pain during running and jumping activities. Pain is localized to the very posterior aspect of the heel. Pain is elicited only with weightbearing. Mild involvement is present if pain is brought on only with running during sports. The symptoms can be severe, with pain (and possibly limp) with activities of daily living (ie walking).
This condition is self limiting, it will go away when the two parts of bony growth join together, this is natural. Unfortunately, Sever's disease can be very painful and limit sport activity of the child while waiting for it to go away, so treatment is often advised to help relieve it. In a few cases of Sever's disease, the treatment is not successful and these children will be restricted in their activity levels until the two growth areas join, usually around the age of 16 years. There are no known long term complications associated with Sever's disease.
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.