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Margherita Chambers

Dealing With Foot Problems

What Exactly Is Severs Disease?

Overview

Sever?s disease a term used to describe pain in the heel at the base of the Achilles tendon. It usually occurs during or after a growth spurt in adolescence most commonly between the ages of 8-13 in girls and 10-15 for boys. Sever?s disease is more prevalent in children who are physically active. Those with Sever?s disease commonly experience pain during or after sports that involve running and jumping, especially those that take place on hard surfaces.

Causes

Predisposing Hereditary Factors: These are a biomechanical defect that one may be born with, which increases the chances of developing Sever's Disease. Short Achilles Tendon, When the Achilles Tendon is short from birth, it will exaggerate the tightness of this tendon that occurs during a child's growing years. This makes the pull of the Achilles Tendon on the heel's growth plate more forceful than normal, causing inflammation and pain, and eventually Sever's Disease. Short Leg Syndrome, When one leg is shorter than the other, the foot on the short leg must plantar flex (the foot and toes bend down) in order to reach the ground. In this way, the body tries to equalize the length of the legs. In order for the foot to plantar flex, the Achilles Tendon must pull on the heel with greater force than if the leg was a normal length. Thus the heel on the short leg will be more susceptible to Sever's Disease during the foot's growing years. Pronation. Is a biomechanical defect of the foot that involves a rolling outward of the foot at the ankle, so that when walking, the inner side of the heel and foot bears more of the body's weight than is normal (click here for more information about pronation). Pronation thus causes the heel to be tilted or twisted. In order for the Achilles Tendon to attach to the heel, it must twist to reach its normal attachment site. This will shorten or tighten the Achilles Tendon and increase the force of its pull on the heel's growth plate. This will increase the tightness of the Achilles Tendon during the foot's growing years, and may help to initiate bouts of Sever's Disease. Flat Arches and High Arches. Both of these biomechanical foot defects effect the pitch, or angle of the heel within the foot. When the heel is not positioned normally within the foot due to the height of the arch, the Achilles Tendon's attachment to the heel is affected. This may produce a shortening or tightening of the Achilles Tendon, which increases the force of its pull on the heel's growth plate. During the foot's growing years, abnormal arch height may contribute to the onset of Sever's Disease.

Symptoms

Most children with Sever's complain of pain in the heel that occurs during or after activity (typically running or jumping) and is usually relieved by rest. The pain may be worse when wearing cleats. Sixty percent of children's with Sever's report experiencing pain in both heels.

Diagnosis

Sever?s disease can be diagnosed based on your history and symptoms. Clinically, your physiotherapist will perform a "squeeze test" and some other tests to confirm the diagnosis. Some children suffer Sever?s disease even though they do less exercise than other. This indicates that it is not just training volume that is at play. Foot and leg biomechanics are a predisposing factor. The main factors thought to predispose a child to Sever?s disease include a decrease in ankle dorsiflexion, abnormal hind foot motion eg overpronation or supination, tight calf muscles, excessive weight-bearing activities eg running.

Non Surgical Treatment

Ice the heel(s) well after exercise (until the area is cold and numb!) Stretch hamstring and calf muscles 2-3 times daily (exercises below) REST when pain becomes persistent or moderate (even if it means skipping games or practices.) Anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen. If symptoms persist, your child may need to see a physical therapist for additional exercises, and/or an orthopedist for othotics or temporary casting/crutches if pain is severe. Sever?s disease is self-recovering, meaning that it will go away on its own when the heels are rested or when the bone is through growing. The condition is not expected to create any long-term disability, and expected to subside in 2-8 weeks. However, pain can recur, for example at the start of a new sports season, several times if it is not taken care of.

Surgical Treatment

The surgeon may select one or more of the following options to treat calcaneal apophysitis. Reduce activity. The child needs to reduce or stop any activity that causes pain. Support the heel. Temporary shoe inserts or custom orthotic devices may provide support for the heel. Medications. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, help reduce the pain and inflammation. Physical therapy. Stretching or physical therapy modalities are sometimes used to promote healing of the inflamed issue. Immobilization. In some severe cases of pediatric heel pain, a cast may be used to promote healing while keeping the foot and ankle totally immobile. Often heel pain in children returns after it has been treated because the heel bone is still growing. Recurrence of heel pain may be a sign of calcaneal apophysitis, or it may indicate a different problem. If your child has a repeat bout of heel pain, be sure to make an appointment with your foot and ankle surgeon.