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Overview

Severs disease is by far the most common cause of heel pain in young children, the condition commonly occurs in kids around the age of 10-15 years. Severs is a traction apophysitis in which inflammation of the calcaneal apophysis (growth plate) occurs as a result of overuse or micro trauma. As mentioned severs disease is caused by micro trauma and over use, this can include excessive foot pronation (foot rolling in), tight calf muscles, increase in sporting activities and inappropriate footwear. These all put extra sheering forces on the growth plate leading to aggravation and resultant pain. Signs and symptoms of this include pain on squeezing of the heel, absence of swelling and redness, child describing pain as a dull ache, limping and pain with increased activity.

Causes

With early puberty, the growth plate at the end of the heel develops, transforming cartilage cells into bone cells. This painful heel condition occurs during these growth spurts, when the heel bone grows more rapidly than the muscles and tendons of the leg. The discrepancy between rates of development causes excess pressure and tension to be placed upon the heel and it becomes less flexible. This condition affects active children the most. Due to the amount of exercise, more stress is placed upon the tendons which in turn causes more damage to the growth plate. The bone plates fully mature and harden by the time a child reaches the age of 15.

Symptoms

This is a condition that affects the cartilage growth plate and the separate island of growing bone on the back of the heel bone. This growth plate is called the physeal plate. The island of growing bone is called the apophysis. It has the insertion attachment of the Achilles tendon, and the attachment of the plantar fascia. This island of bone is under traction from both of these soft tissue tendon and tendon-like attachments.

Diagnosis

A doctor can usually tell that a child has Sever’s disease based on the symptoms reported. To confirm the diagnosis, the doctor will probably examine the heels and ask about the child’s activity level and participation in sports. The doctor might also use the squeeze test, squeezing the back part of the heel from both sides at the same time to see if doing so causes pain. The doctor might also ask the child to stand on tiptoes to see if that position causes pain. Although imaging tests such as X-rays generally are not that helpful in diagnosing Sever’s disease, some doctors order them to rule out other problems, such as fractures. Sever’s disease cannot be seen on an X-ray.

Non Surgical Treatment

Reduce activity, avoid going barefoot, and cushion the child’s heel with shock absorbency. It is very important that your child wear shoes with padded heel surfaces and shoes with good arch supports even when not participating in sports. A heel cup or soft pediatric shoe insert is very important to reduce the pull from the calf muscles on the growth plate and to increase shock absorption and reduce irritation. The use of an ice pack after activity for 20 minutes is often useful. Your health care provider may also prescribe anti-inflammatory drugs or custom orthotics.

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