Sever's disease or Calcaneal apophysitis is a condition that affects children between the ages of 10 and 13 years. It is characterized by pain in one or both heels with walking. During this phase of life, growth of the bone is taking place at a faster rate than the tendons. Hence there is a relative shortening of the heel-cord compared to the leg bones. As a result, the tension the heel-cord applies to the heel bone at its insertion is very great. Moreover, the heel cord is attached to a portion of the calcaneus (heel bone) that is still immature, consisting of a mixture of bone and growing cartilage, called the calcaneal apophysis, which is prone to injury. Compounding to this is the fact that all these changes are happening in a very active child, prone to overuse. The end result is therefore an overuse syndrome of injury and inflammation at the heel where the heel cord (Achilles Tendonitis) inserts into the heel bone (Calcaneal apophysitis).
The actual pathology of the condition is one of more of an overuse syndrome in which the growth plate of the heel may become slightly displaced, causing pain. Biopsies of similar conditions have shown changes consistent with separation of the cartilage. The cause of Sever's disease is not entirely clear. It is most likely due to overuse or repeated minor trauma that happens in a lot of sporting activities - the cartilage join between the two parts of the bone can not take all the shear stress of the activities. Some children seem to be just more prone to it for an unknown reason, combine this with sport, especially if its on a hard surface and the risk of getting it increases. A pronated foot and tight calf muscles are common contributing factors. The condition is very similar to Osgood-Schlatters Disease which occurs at the knee.
The main symptom of sever's disease is pain and tenderness at the back of the heel which is made worse with physical activity. Tenderness will be felt especially if you press in or give the back of the heel a squeeze from the sides. There may be a lump over the painful area. Another sign is tight calf muscles resulting with reduced range of motion at the ankle. Pain may go away after a period of rest from sporting activities only to return when the young person goes back to training.
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
First, your child should cut down or stop any activity that causes heel pain. Apply ice to the injured heel for 20 minutes 3 times a day. If your child has a high arch, flat feet or bowed legs, your doctor may recommend orthotics, arch supports or heel cups. Your child should never go barefoot. If your child has severe heel pain, medicines such as acetaminophen (one brand name: Tylenol) or ibuprofen (some brand names. Advil, Motrin, Nuprin) may help.
In some cases, children will simply outgrow Sever's Disease when they reach a certain age, but this does not mean that symptoms should be ignored. If children express that they are in pain, this should always be taken seriously by their parents or guardians. Heel pain may be a sign of Sever's Disease and this condition should not be left untreated, due to the damage it can cause to the growing heel bones. Scheduling a doctor's appointment is always the first step to take in gaining a diagnosis of symptoms and speedy help for the child.