Dealing With Severs Disease

Overview

It is thought to be a traction injury, where the Achilles tendon and Plantar fascia pull in opposite directions. Sever?s occurs in children aged 8 to 16 years old. In children, the heel bone is made up of 2 bones, with a growth plate of cartilage in between the sections, holding these 2 bones together. As the cartilage expands, the edges of it eventually turn to bone, and finally the gap closes. This usually occurs within the first 13-15 years of life. However, because these bones are connected by cartilage they are weaker than normal bones. This is why they are very vulnerable to injury.

Causes

Sever?s disease is caused by repetitive tension and/or pressure on the growth center of the heel. Running and jumping place a large amount of pressure on the heels and can cause pain. Children with Sever?s may limp or have an altered gait due to the pain. Risk factors for Sever's include tight calf muscles, weak ankle muscles, and alignment abnormalities at the foot and ankle. Sever?s can also result from wearing shoes without sufficient heel padding or arch support.

Symptoms

Sever?s is recognized by pain in the back and lower regions of the heel. It usually starts during or immediately following the child's growth spurt, and/or in very active individuals. The child will usually have pain during or following participation in sport, and will often be seen limping off the field or court. Symptoms of Sever's include painful heel, no swelling or warmth, night pain is absent, pain is worse with increased activity, pain which is usually relieved by rest. Children often hobble or limp from the sports field.

Diagnosis

Low-grade inflammation of the calcaneal apophysis cannot be seen on x-ray. Therefore, although x-rays are often done to rule out bony injuries in children with Sever's disease these x-rays are usually normal. Advanced Sever's disease can be seen on x-ray but usually the problem is treated before it reaches this point. Other diagnostic tests, such as bone scans or MRI's, are not usually required in typical cases of Sever's disease. These, or other tests, may be required to rule out other conditions, such as stress fractures of the calcaneus or other bony abnormalities that can mimic Severs disease.

Non Surgical Treatment

The following are different treatment options Rest and modify activity. Limit running and high-impact activity to rest the heel and lessen the pain. Choose one running or jumping sport to play at a time. Substitute low-impact cross-training activities to maintain cardiovascular fitness. This can include biking, swimming, using a stair-climber or elliptical machine, rowing, or inline skating. Reduce inflammation. Ice for at least 20 minutes after activity or when pain increases. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may also help. Stretch the calf. Increase calf flexibility by doing calf stretches for 30 to 45 seconds several times per day. Protect the heel. The shoe may need to be modified to provide the proper heel lift or arch support. Select a shoe with good arch support and heel lift if possible. Try heel lifts or heel cups in sports shoes, especially cleats. Try arch support in cleats if flat feet contribute to the problem. Take it one step at a time. Gradually resume running and impact activities as symptoms allow. Sever?s disease usually goes away when the growth plate (apophysis) matures, which should be by age 12 to 13 years in females and 13 to 14 years in males.

Recovery

With proper care, your child should feel better within 2 weeks to 2 months. Your child can start playing sports again only when the heel pain is gone. Your doctor will let you know when physical activity is safe.

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