Sever?s is described as a traction apophysitis. In childhood our bones are made of a cartilage mould of the bone, which over time as we grow slowly turns into a full bone. The reason for this is that it is easier to grow cartilage to the length required, and then back fill with bone later than it is to actually grow new bone. Most bones have a least two growth of bone centres, one by the joint and one making the main body of the bone. In the growing heel bone (calcaneus) the posterior part has a separate growth area where the Achilles tendon attaches. When playing lots of sport, especially football, rugby and hockey, the two areas of bone can be pulled apart, producing pain. Recent evidence has also suggested that the appearance of this condition on MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), appears to indicate that Sever?s is a type of stress fracture. Whether that fatigue stress is from compression or tension remains in debate, and is probably a combination of both.
Sever?s disease is most likely to occur during the growth spurt that occurs in adolescence. For girls, growth spurts usually occurs between 8 and 13 years of age. For boys, it?s typically between 10 and 15 years of age. The back of the heel hardens and becomes stronger when it finishes growing, which is why Sever?s rarely occurs in older adolescents and teenagers.
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.
To diagnose the cause of the child?s heel pain and rule out other more serious conditions, the foot and ankle surgeon obtains a thorough medical history and asks questions about recent activities. The surgeon will also examine the child?s foot and leg. X-rays are often used to evaluate the condition. Other advanced imaging studies and laboratory tests may also be ordered.
Non Surgical Treatment
If your child lets you know that his heels are hurting, schedule a doctor's appointment. Your family doctor may or may not refer you to a podiatrist. Treatment for Sever's Disease typically consists of one or more of the following steps. Reducing physical activity. Because Sever's Disease appears to be most common in athletic children, reducing exercise periods will relieve pressure on the heel bones, thereby reducing pain. Your doctor may recommend that your child take a complete break from athletic activity for a set amount of time. Icing the heel bones can help to lower both inflammation and pain levels. Use a cold pack or wrap ice in a towel and apply it to the heels. A new exercise regimen that involves simple stretches designed to lengthen the calf muscles and tendons. Your doctor may prescribe the use of orthotic shoe inserts that will assist your child in maintaining a good level of physical activity. HTP Heel Seats may be an excellent option and have been purchased by many parents as an effective aide for children suffering from Sever's Disease. Read about HTP Heel Seats here and ask your doctor if they are right for your child's unique case. In extreme cases, a doctor may recommend a plaster cast or boot, but typically only if other less cumbersome solutions fail to reduce pain. Some doctors may prescribe anti-inflammatory medications. Never give these to a child yourself, without first seeking a doctor's advice. Some medications carry the risk of serious side effects for children. Only give medications if specifically prescribed your child's physician.
The following exercises are commonly prescribed to patients with Severs disease. You should discuss the suitability of these exercises with your physiotherapist prior to beginning them. Generally, they should be performed 1 - 3 times daily and only provided they do not cause or increase symptoms. Your physiotherapist can advise when it is appropriate to begin the initial exercises and eventually progress to the intermediate, advanced and other exercises. As a general rule, addition of exercises or progression to more advanced exercises should take place provided there is no increase in symptoms. Calf Stretch with Towel. Begin this stretch in long sitting with your leg to be stretched in front of you. Your knee and back should be straight and a towel or rigid band placed around your foot as demonstrated. Using your foot, ankle and the towel, bring your toes towards your head as far as you can go without pain and provided you feel no more than a mild to moderate stretch in the back of your calf, Achilles tendon or leg. Hold for 5 seconds and repeat 10 times at a mild to moderate stretch provided the exercise is pain free. Calf Stretch with Towel. Begin this exercise with a resistance band around your foot and your foot and ankle held up towards your head. Slowly move your foot and ankle down against the resistance band as far as possible and comfortable without pain, tightening your calf muscle. Very slowly return back to the starting position. Repeat 10 - 20 times provided the exercise is pain free. Once you can perform 20 repetitions consistently without pain, the exercise can be progressed by gradually increasing the resistance of the band provided there is no increase in symptoms. Bridging. Begin this exercise lying on your back in the position demonstrated. Slowly lift your bottom pushing through your feet, until your knees, hips and shoulders are in a straight line. Tighten your bottom muscles (gluteals) as you do this. Hold for 2 seconds then slowly lower your bottom back down. Repeat 10 times provided the exercise is pain free.