Diagnosing Severs Disease

Overview

Although the name might sound pretty frightening, Sever's disease is really a common heel injury that occurs in kids. It can be painful, but is only temporary and has no long-term effects. Calcaneal apophysitis is a painful inflammation of the heel?s growth plate. It typically affects children between the ages of 8 and 14 years old, because the heel bone (calcaneus) is not fully developed until at least age 14. Until then, new bone is forming at the growth plate (physis), a weak area located at the back of the heel. When there is too much repetitive stress on the growth plate, inflammation can develop. Calcaneal apophysitis is also called Sever?s disease, although it is not a true ?disease.? It is the most common cause of heel pain in children, and can occur in one or both feet. Heel pain in children differs from the most common type of heel pain experienced by adults. While heel pain in adults usually subsides after a period of walking, pediatric heel pain generally doesn?t improve in this manner. In fact, walking typically makes the pain worse.

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

Symptoms of calcaneal apophysitis may include pain in the back or bottom of the heel, Limping, walking on toes, difficulty running, jumping, or participating in usual activities or sports. Pain when the sides of the heel are squeezed.

Diagnosis

It is not difficult for a doctor to diagnose Sever's disease in a youngster or teenager. A personal history and a physical examination are usually all it takes to determine the cause of heel pain.

Non Surgical Treatment

If the child has a pronated foot, a flat or high arch, or another condition that increases the risk of Sever's disease, the doctor might recommend special shoe inserts, called orthotic devices, such as heel pads that cushion the heel as it strikes the ground, heel lifts that reduce strain on the Achilles tendon by raising the heel, arch supports that hold the heel in an ideal position. If a child is overweight or obese, the doctor will probably also recommend weight loss to decrease pressure on the heel. The risk of recurrence goes away on its own when foot growth is complete and the growth plate has fused to the rest of the heel bone, usually around age 15.

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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