One of the more common limitations to children enjoying their youthful energy is Sever?s Disease. Sever?s Disease is a pathology that affects the heels of children in their high growth years (usually around 9-15), and it can be quite painful. It usually occurs due to repetitive trauma or impact at the heel. This means that if your child spends a lot of time running around (in sports, or just with friends) the continuous impact of his or her heel to the ground can cause this! Usually, most children will complain of heel pain specifically when they are active; these are considered milder cases. In more severe cases the pain may never cease, whether the child is active or not.
Overuse and stress on the heel bone through participation in sports is a major cause of calcaneal apophysitis. The heel?s growth plate is sensitive to repeated running and pounding on hard surfaces, resulting in muscle strain and inflamed tissue. For this reason, children and adolescents involved in soccer, track, or basketball are especially vulnerable. Other potential causes of calcaneal apophysitis include obesity, a tight Achilles tendon, and biomechanical problems such as flatfoot or a high-arched foot.
On examination, the typical signs are tenderness on palpation of the heel, particularly on deep palpation at the Achilles tendon insertion. Pain on dorsiflexion of the ankle, particularly when doing active toe raises; forced dorsiflexion of the ankle is also uncomfortable. Swelling of the heel, usually mild. Calcaneal enlargement, in long-standing cases.
A physical exam of the heel will show tenderness over the back of the heel but not in the Achilles tendon or plantar fascia. There may be tightness in the calf muscle, which contributes to tension on the heel. The tendons in the heel get stretched more in patients with flat feet. There is greater impact force on the heels of athletes with a high-arched, rigid foot. The doctor may order an x-ray because x-rays can confirm how mature the growth center is and if there are other sources of heel pain, such as a stress fracture or bone cyst. However, x-rays are not necessary to diagnose Sever?s disease, and it is not possible to make the diagnosis based on the x-ray alone.
Non Surgical Treatment
When the condition flares, it is treated with activity limitation, medication to reduce inflammation (such as ibuprofen [Advil] or naproxen [Aleve]), shoe inserts, heel lifts, cold packs, and sometimes casting when it becomes especially severe. Sever condition is generally a self-limited problem that usually improves within a year.
For children with Sever's disease, it is important to habitually perform exercises to stretch the hamstrings, calf muscles, and the tendons on the back of the leg. Stretching should be performed 2-3 times a day. Each stretch should be performed for 20 seconds, and both legs should be stretched, even if the pain is only in one heel. Heel cups or an inner shoe heel lifts are often recommended for patient suffering from Sever's disease. Wearing running shoes with built in heel cups can also decrease the symptoms because they can help soften the impact on the heel when walking, running, or standing.