Severs Disease Facts And Figures

Overview


n the growing child there are a number of different ways that bones grow. In the calcaneus (heel bone), growth comes from two separate growth plates. The lesser of the two growth plates is called the apophysis. The apophysis of the calcaneus is located between the back and the bottom of the heel at that spot that hits the ground each time we take a step. The Achilles tendon, which is the most powerful tendons in our body, attaches to the proximal aspect of the apophysis. The plantar fascia attaches to the distal aspect of the apophysis. Both the Achilles tendon and plantar fascia place traction, or pulling on the growth plate and contribute to inflammation of the secondary growth plate called apophysitis. The calcaneal apophysis is very apparent on x-ray and continues to grow until approximately age 12 in girls and age 15 in boys.


Causes


Growth plates, also called epiphyseal plates, occur at the end of long bones in children who are still growing. These plates are at either end of growing bones, and are the place where cartilage turns into bone. As children grow, these plates eventually become bone (a process called ossification). During a growth spurt, the bone in the heel may outpace the growth of the muscles and tendons that are attached to the heel, such as the Achilles tendon. During weight bearing, the muscles and tendons begin to tighten, which in turn puts stress on the growth plate in the heel. The heel is not very flexible, and the constant pressure on it begins to cause the symptoms of Sever?s disease. Sever?s disease is common, and it does not predispose a child to develop any other diseases or conditions in the leg, foot, or heel. It typically resolves on its own.


Symptoms


Pain is usually felt at the back of the heel and around the sides of the heel. If you squeeze the back of the heel from both sides simultaneously and pain is experienced Sever?s disease is more than likely present.


Diagnosis


In Sever's disease, heel pain can be in one or both heels. It usually starts after a child begins a new sports season or a new sport. Your child may walk with a limp. The pain may increase when he or she runs or jumps. He or she may have a tendency to tiptoe. Your child's heel may hurt if you squeeze both sides toward the very back. This is called the squeeze test. Your doctor may also find that your child's heel tendons have become tight.


Non Surgical Treatment


The disease itself is self limiting and will resolve regardless of treatment once the growth plate has fully closed. Depending on the age of the youth at onset this could be a problem for many years. Treatment has always been aimed at managing the pain as well as the inflammation. This is done with the rest, ice, non steroidal anti-inflammatories like ibuprofen, stretching, taping, heel cups, heel lifts and orthotics. In severe cases, cast or walking boot immobilization is used. Each of these have differing levels of efficacy but in my experience orthotics are the golden treatment or the silver bullet. I am not talking about your run of the mill over the counter Dr. Scholls shoe insert. These definitely have their place in the world but not here. Custom molded orthotics made from a mold taken of the youths foot will provide the necessary control and support to stop the pain cycle. We can safely report over 85% of patients who are able to get back to sports and other activities as long as they wear the orthotics in supportive shoes as directed.


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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