Sever?s disease (also known as calcaneal apophysitis) is a type of bone injury in which the growth plate in the lower back of the heel, where the Achilles tendon (the heel cord that attaches to the growth plate) attaches, becomes inflamed and causes pain. Sever?s disease is the most common cause of heel pain in children, especially those who exercise or play sports on a regular basis.
Sever?s disease is most likely to occur during the growth spurt that occurs in adolescence. For girls, growth spurts usually occurs between 8 and 13 years of age. For boys, it?s typically between 10 and 15 years of age. The back of the heel hardens and becomes stronger when it finishes growing, which is why Sever?s rarely occurs in older adolescents and teenagers.
Sever's disease usually develops gradually. The pain from Sever's disease is often intermittent and localized to the area where the Achilles tendon attaches to the calcaneus. Swelling may be noted in this area. There can be tenderness on squeezing the calcaneus or pain when trying to stretch the calf muscles. Occasionally there is night pain. As Sever's disease progresses there can be continuous pain.
A doctor can usually tell that a child has Sever's disease based on the symptoms reported. To confirm the diagnosis, the doctor will probably examine the heels and ask about the child's activity level and participation in sports. The doctor might also use the squeeze test, squeezing the back part of the heel from both sides at the same time to see if doing so causes pain. The doctor might also ask the child to stand on tiptoes to see if that position causes pain. Although imaging tests such as X-rays generally are not that helpful in diagnosing Sever's disease, some doctors order them to rule out other problems, such as fractures. Sever's disease cannot be seen on an X-ray.
Non Surgical Treatment
Management by a health professional of Sever's disease is often wise. There are a few very rare problems that may be causing the pain, so a correct diagnosis is extremely important. Advice should be given on all of what is mentioned above, appropriate activity levels, the use of ice, always wearing shoes, heel raises and stretching, follow this advice. As a pronated foot is common in children with this problem, a discussion regarding the use of foot orthotics long term may be important. Strapping or tape is sometimes used during activity to limit the ankle joint range of motion. If the symptoms are bad enough and not responding to these measures, medication to help with anti-inflammatory may be needed. In some cases the lower limb may need to be put in a cast for 2-6 weeks to give it a good chance to heal. After the calcaneal apophysitis resolves, prevention with the use of stretching, good supportive shock absorbing shoe and heel raises are important to prevent it happening again.
Having Sever?s disease does not predispose children or teens to any other condition, nor is it a permanent problem. It is self-limiting, and when treated, the pain and other symptoms will abate within a few weeks. Once the growth plate has finished growing, Sever?s disease will resolve and won?t recur. It is important to continue to treat any underlying foot conditions and to avoid any long periods of inactivity.