Severs Disease The Truth

Overview

Calcaneal apophysitis (Sever?s disease) is the most common cause of heel pain in young athletes. Calcaneal apophysitis is a painful inflammation of the heel?s calcaneal apophysis growth plate, believed to be caused by repetitive microtrauma from the pull of the Achilles tendon on the apophysis. Patients with calcaneal apophysitis may have activity-related pain in the posterior aspect of the heel. 60 percent of patients report bilateral pain. This condition is usually treated conservatively with stretching and arch supports. The young athlete should be able to return to normal activities as the pain decreases. Calcaneal apophysitis (Sever?s Disease) may last for months. Increasing pain, despite measures listed below, warrants a return visit to the physician.

Causes

Sever?s disease is caused by repetitive tension and/or pressure on the growth center of the heel. Running and jumping place a large amount of pressure on the heels and can cause pain. Children with Sever?s may limp or have an altered gait due to the pain. Risk factors for Sever’s include tight calf muscles, weak ankle muscles, and alignment abnormalities at the foot and ankle. Sever?s can also result from wearing shoes without sufficient heel padding or arch support.

Symptoms

Chief complaint is heel pain which increases pain during running and jumping activities. Pain is localized to the very posterior aspect of the heel. Pain is elicited only with weightbearing. Mild involvement is present if pain is brought on only with running during sports. The symptoms can be severe, with pain (and possibly limp) with activities of daily living (ie walking).

Diagnosis

Sever’s disease is diagnosed based on a doctor?s physical examination of the lower leg, ankle, and foot. If the diagnosis is in question, the doctor may order X-rays or an MRI to determine if there are other injuries that may be causing the heel pain.

Non Surgical Treatment

The following are different treatment options. Rest and modify activity. Limit running and high-impact activity to rest the heel and lessen the pain. Choose one running or jumping sport to play at a time. Substitute low-impact cross-training activities to maintain cardiovascular fitness. This can include biking, swimming, using a stair-climber or elliptical machine, rowing, or inline skating. Reduce inflammation. Ice for at least 20 minutes after activity or when pain increases. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may also help. Stretch the calf. Increase calf flexibility by doing calf stretches for 30 to 45 seconds several times per day. Protect the heel. The shoe may need to be modified to provide the proper heel lift or arch support. Select a shoe with good arch support and heel lift if possible. Try heel lifts or heel cups in sports shoes, especially cleats. Try arch support in cleats if flat feet contribute to the problem.

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.

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