Treating Severs Disease

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Overview

When recurring heel pain occurs in children, it is usually due to Sever's Disease, while adult heel pain is usually due to heel spurs, plantar fasciitis, or retrocalcaneal bursitis (Haglund's Deformity). Calcaneus is the anatomical name of the heel bone. Sever's Disease or Calcaneal Apophysitis is an inflammation of the growth plate located at the posterior aspect (back) of the heel.

Causes

Sever?s disease is common, and typically occurs during a child?s growth spurt, which can occur between the ages of 10 and 15 in boys and between the ages of 8 and 13 in girls. Feet tend to grow more quickly than other parts of the body, and in most kids the heel has finished growing by the age of 15. Being active in sports or participating in an activity that requires standing for long periods can increase the risk of developing Sever?s disease. In some cases, Sever?s disease first becomes apparent after a child begins a new sport, or when a new sports season starts. Sports that are commonly associated with Sever?s disease include track, basketball, soccer, and gymnastics. Children who are overweight or obese are also at a greater risk of developing this condition. Certain foot problems can also increase the risk, including. Over pronating. Kids who over pronate (roll the foot inward) when walking may develop Sever?s disease. Flat foot or high arch. An arch that is too high or too low can put more stress on the foot and the heel, and increase the risk of Sever?s disease. Short leg. Children who have one leg that is shorter than the other may experience Sever?s disease in the foot of the shorter leg because that foot is under more stress when walking.

Symptoms

Patients with Severs disease typically experience pain that develops gradually in the back of the heel or Achilles region. In less severe cases, patients may only experience an ache or stiffness in the heel that increases with rest (especially at night or first thing in the morning). This typically occurs following activities which require strong or repetitive contraction of the calf muscles, such as running (especially uphill) or during sports involving running, jumping or hopping. The pain associated with this condition may also warm up with activity in the initial stages of the condition. As the condition progresses, patients may experience symptoms that increase during activity and affect performance. Pain may also increase when performing a calf stretch or heel raise (i.e. rising up onto tip toes). In severe cases, patients may walk with a limp, have difficulty putting their heel down, or be unable to weight bear on the affected leg. Pain may also increase on firmly touching the affected region and occasionally a bony lump may be palpable or visible at the back of the heel. This condition typically presents gradually overtime and can affect either one or both lower limbs.

Diagnosis

Sever's disease is based on the symptoms reported. To confirm the diagnosis, the clinician will examine the heels and ask about the child's activity level and participation in sports. They may also squeeze the back part of the heel from both sides at the same time to see if doing so causes pain and also ask the child to stand on tiptoes to see if that position causes pain. There may be tightness in the calf muscle, which contributes to tension on the heel. Symptoms are usually worse during or after activity and get better with rest. X-rays generally are not that helpful in diagnosing Sever's disease, but they may be ordered to rule out other problems, such as fractures. Sever's disease cannot be seen on an X-ray.

Non Surgical Treatment

Treatment is initially focused on reducing the present pain and limitations and then on preventing recurrence. Limitation of activity (especially running and jumping) usually is necessary. In Micheli and Ireland's study, 84% of 85 patients were able to resume sports activities after 2 months. If the symptoms are not severe enough to warrant limiting sports activities or if the patient and parents are unwilling to miss a critical portion of the sport season, wearing a half-inch inner-shoe heel lift (at all times during ambulation), a monitored stretching program, presport and postsport icing, and judicious use of anti-inflammatory agents normally reduce the symptoms and allow continued participation. If symptoms worsen, activity modification must be included. For severe cases, short-term (2-3 weeks) cast treatment in mild equinus can be used.

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