What Is Severs Disease?

Overview

Sever's Disease, also known as calcaneal apophysitis, is a disease of the growth plate of the bone and is characterized by pain in the heel of a child's foot, typically brought on by some form of injury or trauma. This condition is most common in children ages 10 to 15 and is frequently seen in active soccer, football, or baseball players. Sport shoes with cleats are also known to aggravate the condition. The disease mimics Achilles tendonitis, an inflammation of the tendon attached to the back of the heel. A tight Achilles tendon contributes to Sever's Disease by pulling excessively on the growth plate of the heel bone (calcaneus). Treatment includes cutting back on sports activities, calf muscle stretching exercises, heel cushions in the shoes, icing, and/or anti-inflammatory medications. Note: Please consult your physician before taking any medications.

Causes

During the growth spurt of early puberty, the heel bone (also called the calcaneus) sometimes grows faster than the leg muscles and tendons. This can cause the muscles and tendons to become very tight and overstretched, making the heel less flexible and putting pressure on the growth plate. The Achilles tendon (also called the heel cord) is the strongest tendon that attaches to the growth plate in the heel. Over time, repeated stress (force or pressure) on the already tight Achilles tendon damages the growth plate, causing the swelling, tenderness, and pain of Sever's disease. Such stress commonly results from physical activities and sports that involve running and jumping, especially those that take place on hard surfaces, such as track, basketball, soccer, and gymnastics.

Symptoms

Sever condition causes pain at the back of the heel. The pain is increased with plantar flexion of the ankle (pushing down with the foot as if stepping on the gas), particularly against resistance. Sever condition also causes tenderness and swelling in the area of the pain.

Diagnosis

Sever?s disease can be diagnosed based on the symptoms your child has. Your child?s doctor will conduct a physical examination by squeezing different parts of your child?s foot to see if they cause any pain. An X-ray may be used to rule out other problems, such as a broken bone or fracture.

Non Surgical Treatment

If your child is diagnosed with Sever's disease, treatment is fairly straightforward. He or she should avoid any activities that cause a flare-up of heel pain. Treat the pain with ice for 20 minutes, three times a day. If the pain is severe, over-the-counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen can be used for a short period of time. (Don't use aspirin in a child or teen because it can result in a rare but life-threatening condition called Reye's syndrome.) In some instances, a child might have other foot problems, as well, such as high arches, flat feet, or bowed legs. In these instances, your doctor can recommend an orthotic device to help further prevent the pain related to Sever's disease. One other simple tip that can prevent Sever's disease or speed along recovery is for your child to wear supportive shoes and avoid going barefoot as much as possible.

Exercise

Exercises that help to stretch the calf muscles and hamstrings are effective at treating Sever's disease. An exercise known as foot curling, in which the foot is pointed away from the body, then curled toward the body in order to help stretch the muscles, has also proven to be very effective at treating Sever's disease. The curling exercise should be done in sets of 10 or 20 repetitions, and repeated several times throughout the day.

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