Sever’s disease is a condition characterized by pain in one or both heels with walking. The pain is caused by shortening of the heel-cord. It usually affects children between the ages of 10 and 13 years old. During this phase of life, growth of the bone is taking place at a faster rate than the tendons. Sever’s disease is also called calcaneal apophysitis.
During the growth spurt of early puberty, the heel bone (also called the calcaneus) sometimes grows faster than the leg muscles and tendons. This can cause the muscles and tendons to become very tight and overstretched, making the heel less flexible and putting pressure on the growth plate. The Achilles tendon (also called the heel cord) is the strongest tendon that attaches to the growth plate in the heel. Over time, repeated stress (force or pressure) on the already tight Achilles tendon damages the growth plate, causing the swelling, tenderness, and pain of Sever’s disease. Such stress commonly results from physical activities and sports that involve running and jumping, especially those that take place on hard surfaces, such as track, basketball, soccer, and gymnastics.
The most common symptoms of Sever?s involves pain or tenderness in one or both heels. This pain usually occurs at the back of the heel, but can also extend to the sides and bottom of the heel. A child with Sever?s may also have these common problems. Heel pain with limping, especially after running. Difficulty walking. Discomfort or stiffness in the feet upon awaking. Swelling and redness in the heel. Symptoms are usually worse during or after activity and get better with rest.
Your podiatrist will take a comprehensive medical history and perform a physical examination including a gait analysis. The assessment will include foot posture assessment, joint flexibility (or range of motion), biomechanical assessment of the foot, ankle and leg, foot and leg muscle strength testing, footwear assessment, school shoes and athletic footwear, gait analysis, to look for abnormalities in the way the feet move during gait, Pain provocation tests eg calcaneal squeeze test. X-rays are not usually required to diagnose Sever?s disease.
Non Surgical Treatment
Treatment depends on the severity of the condition, but may include relative rest and modified activity, a physiotherapist can help work out what, and how much, activity to undertake. Cold packs, apply ice or cold packs to the back of the heels for around 15 minutes after any physical activity, including walking. Shoe inserts, small heel inserts worn inside the shoes can take some of the traction pressure off the Achilles tendons. This will only be required in the short term. Medication, pain-relieving medication may help in extreme cases, but should always be combined with other treatment and following consultation with your doctor). Anti-inflammatory creams are also an effective management tool. Splinting or casting, in severe cases, it may be necessary to immobilise the lower leg using a splint or cast, but this is rare. Time, generally the pain will ease in one to two weeks, although there may be flare-ups from time to time. Correction of any biomechanical issues, a physiotherapist can identify and discuss any biomechanical issues that may cause or worsen the condition. Education on how to self-manage the symptoms and flare-ups of Sever?s disease is an essential part of the treatment.
Prevention consists of maintaining good flexibility through stretching exercises, avoid excessive running on hard surfaces, and use quality, well-fitting shoes with firm support and a shock-absorbent sole.