Addressing Severs Disease

Overview

Sever’s disease is a term used to describe inflammation of the calcaneal apophysis which occurs in children and adolescents. Sever first described the condition in 1912. Further studies have suggested that the condition is due to repeated ‘microtrauma’ at the site of the attachment of the Achilles tendon to the apophysis of the heel, often as result of sporting activities. The disorder can be classified among the general osteochondrosis syndromes such as Osgood-Schlatter disease.

Causes

There are usually two root causes of Sever?s disease that we?ve found that effect young athletes. Arches are not supported causing a dysfunctional run, jump, and landing. The calves (gastrocnemius and soleus muscles) are overworked, tight, and do not allow proper movement of foot which puts extreme pressure on the Achilles? tendon, in turn irritating the growth plate in the heel.

Symptoms

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.

Diagnosis

A doctor or other health professional such as a physiotherapist can diagnose Sever?s disease by asking the young person to describe their symptoms and by conducting a physical examination. In some instances, an x-ray may be necessary to rule out other causes of heel pain, such as heel fractures. Sever?s disease does not show on an x-ray because the damage is in the cartilage.

Non Surgical Treatment

Treatment revolves around decreasing activity. Usual treatment has been putting children in a boot in slight equinus, or a cast with the foot in slight equinus, thereby decreasing the tension on the heel cord, which in turn pulls on the growth plate at the heel. As the pain resolves, children are allowed to go back to full activities. Complete resolution may be delayed until growth of the foot is complete (when the growth plate fuses to the rest of the bone of the heel). A soft cushioning heel raise is really important (this reduces the pull from the calf muscles on the growth plate and increases the shock absorption, so the growth plate is not knocked around as much). The use of an ice pack after activity for 20mins is often useful for calcaneal apophysitis, this should be repeated 2 to 3 times a day. As a pronated foot is common in children with this problem, a discussion regarding the use of long term foot orthotics may be important. If the symptoms are bad enough and are not responding to these measures, medication to help with inflammation 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.

Recovery

One of the most important things to know about Sever’s disease is that, with proper care, the condition usually goes away within 2 weeks to 2 months and does not cause any problems later in life. The sooner Sever’s disease is addressed, the quicker recovery is. Most kids can return to physical activity without any trouble once the pain and other symptoms go away. Although Sever’s disease generally heals quickly, it can recur if long-term measures are not taken to protect the heel during a child’s growing years. One of the most important is to make sure that kids wear proper shoes. Good quality, well-fitting shoes with shock-absorbent (padded) soles help to reduce pressure on the heel. The doctor may also recommend shoes with open backs, such as sandals or clogs, that do not rub on the back of the heel. Shoes that are heavy or have high heels should be avoided. Other preventive measures include continued stretching exercises and icing of the affected heel after activity.

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