Sever’s disease occurs in children when the growth plate (which is the growing part of the heel) is injured. The foot is one of the first body parts to grow to full size. This usually occurs in early puberty. During this time, bones often grow faster than muscles and tendons. As a result, muscles and tendons become tight. The heel area is less flexible. During weight-bearing activity (activity performed while standing), the tight heel tendons may put too much pressure at the back of the heel (where the Achilles tendon attaches). This can injure the heel and cause Sever’s disease.
Sever condition is caused by sprain injury where the Achilles tendon attaches to the calcaneus bone at the back of the heel. Sever condition occurs in adolescent or older children, particularly active boys. It can be very painful. It is one of those conditions commonly referred to as “growing pains.” Patients are evaluated for signs of conditions that can mimic Sever condition, such as ankylosing spondylitis and other forms of arthritis. Usually Sever condition is self-limited; that is, it disappears as the child ages.
The typical patient is a child between 10 and 13 years of age, complaining of pain in one or both heels with running and walking. The pain is localized to the point of the heel where the tendo-Achilles inserts into the calcaneus, and is tender to deep pressure at that site. Walking on his toes relieves the pain.
All medical diagnosis should be made by taking a full history, examining the patient then performing investigations. The problem usually occurs in boys who are going through or have just gone through a growth spurt; one or both heels may be affected. Initially the pain may be intermittent occurring only during or after exercise. As the problem gets worse, pain may be present most of the time. There may be swelling over the back of the heel and this area is painful if touched or knocked. On examination the patient often has flat feet, very tight legs muscles especially the gastrocnemius.
Non Surgical Treatment
Treatment of Severs disease usually involves a combination of an accurate analysis of your child?s gait, muscles, tendons, ligaments and joints is a crucial first step. Specific stretching and strengthening exercises often make up part of the treatment. Anti-inflammatory measures such as ice baths after exercise can be helpful in the short term. Footwear review, assessment and advice is important. Orthotic devices are often needed to firstly control any abnormal traction or tension on the heel growth plate and, secondly, too unload the ground reaction forces on the heel bone. Podiatry Care has podiatrists with specific paediatric training enabling them to utilise treatment options to relieve heel pain in children very quickly. If your child is struggling to play sport, see a Podiatry Care podiatrist near you. In severe cases modification to activity levels may be required. Treatment of Severs disease does NOT require surgery. This foot condition responds very well to conservative treatment.
As with all overuse injuries, it is important to warm up sufficiently before you exercise and warm down afterwards. You should build up any alterations in the intensity of your training gradually, and never continue exercising with weakened or fatigued muscles. Replace any worn or tattered shoes, as in this condition they become useless for absorbing shock and protecting the feet.