Sever's disease, also known as calcaneal apophysitis, is a medical condition that causes heel pain in one or both feet of children during the period when their feet are growing. Sever's disease occurs most commonly in boys and girls between the ages of 8 and 14 years of age. Sever's disease occurs when the part of the child's heel known as the growth plate, or the calcaneal epiphysis, an area attached to the Achilles tendon, suffers an injury or when the muscles and tendons of the growing foot do not keep pace with bone growth. The result is constant pain experienced at the back of the heel and the inability to put any weight on the heel, forcing the child to bear weight on their toes while walking. A toe gait develops in which the child must change the way they walk to avoid placing weight on the painful heel, a position that can lead to other developmental problems.
Children are at greatest risk of developing Sever's disease when they have reached the early part of a growth spurt in early puberty. For girls, this is typically around ages 8 to 10. For boys, it happens somewhere between the ages of 10 to 12. By the age of 15, the back of the heel has typically stopped growing in most children, and Sever's disease becomes rare. Any running or jumping activities can increase the odds that a child will develop Sever's disease. Soccer and gymnastics are two common sports that tend to put kids at risk.
Pain is usually related to activity levels. In most cases the posterior aspect of the calcaneus will be tender. Checking both the medial and lateral aspects of the posterior portion of the growth plate will often show tenderness. Occasionally, the plantar aspect may be tender or both of these locations may be found to be tender. Frequently the Achilles tendon is tight and there may have been a recent increase in activity. The factors contributing to this disorder are similar to those causing plantar fasciitis, but a tight Achilles tendon appears to be a greater contributor than pronation.
A doctor or other health professional such as a physiotherapist can diagnose Sever?s disease by asking the young person to describe their symptoms and by conducting a physical examination. In some instances, an x-ray may be necessary to rule out other causes of heel pain, such as heel fractures. Sever?s disease does not show on an x-ray because the damage is in the cartilage.
Non Surgical Treatment
Primary treatment involves the use of heel cups or orthotics with a sturdy, supportive plastic shell. Treatment may also include cutting back on sports activities if pain interferes with performance, calf muscle stretching exercises, icing, and occasionally anti-inflammatory medications. Severe cases may require the short term use of a walking boot or cast.
Exercises that help to stretch the calf muscles and hamstrings are effective at treating Sever's disease. An exercise known as foot curling, in which the foot is pointed away from the body, then curled toward the body in order to help stretch the muscles, has also proven to be very effective at treating Sever's disease. The curling exercise should be done in sets of 10 or 20 repetitions, and repeated several times throughout the day.