Diagnosing Severs Disease

Overview

During AGS, and in specific reference to Sever?s disease, the heel bone grows faster than the Achilles tendon, resulting in an extremely tight Achilles tendon. Because the foot is one of the first parts of the body to grow to full size, and because the heel is not a very flexible area, it is especially susceptible to injury. 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 (such as impact activities) on the tight Achilles tendon causes the tendon to pull on and damage the growth plate in the heel, resulting in swelling, tenderness, and pain.

Causes

The pain of Severs usually occurs because of inflammation and micro-trauma to the growth plate of the heel bone. This can be caused by a sudden increase in activity, running on very hard surfaces, a growth spurt, tight muscles or feet that roll in.

Symptoms

Unilateral or bilateral heel pain. Heel pain during physical exercise, especially activities that require running or jumping or are high impact. Pain is often worse after exercise. A tender swelling or bulge on the heel that is painful on touch. Limping. Calf muscle stiffness first thing in the morning.

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

The practitioner should inform the patient and the patient?s parents that this is not a dangerous disorder and that it will resolve spontaneously as the patient matures (16-18 years old). Treatment depends on the severity of the child?s symptoms. The condition is self-limiting, thus the patient?s activity level should be limited only by pain. Treatment is quite varied. Relative Rest/ Modified rest or cessation of sports. Cryotherapy. Stretching Triceps Surae and strengthen extensors. Nighttime dorsiflexion splints (often used for plantar fasciitis, relieve the symptoms and help to maintain flexibility). Plantar fascial stretching. Gentle mobilizations to the subtalar joint and forefoot area. Heel lifts, Orthoses (all types, heel cups, heel foam), padding for shock absorption or strapping of heel to decrease impact shock. Electrical stimulation in the form of Russian stimulation sine wave modulated at 2500 Hz with a 12 second on time and an 8 second off time with a 3 second ramp. Advise to wear supportive shoes. Ultrasound, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Casting (2-4 weeks) or Crutches (sever cases). Corticosteroid injections are not recommended. Ketoprofen Gel as an addition to treatment. Symptoms usually resolve in a few weeks to 2 months after therapy is initiated. In order to prevent calcaneal apophysitis when returning to sports (after successful treatment and full recovery), icing and stretching after activity are most indicated. Respectable opinion and poorly conducted retrospective case series make up the majority of evidence on this condition. The level of evidence for most of what we purport to know about Sever?s disease is at such a level that prospective, well-designed studies are a necessity to allow any confidence in describing this condition and its treatment.

Surgical Treatment

The surgeon may select one or more of the following options to treat calcaneal apophysitis. Reduce activity. The child needs to reduce or stop any activity that causes pain. Support the heel. Temporary shoe inserts or custom orthotic devices may provide support for the heel. Medications. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, help reduce the pain and inflammation. Physical therapy. Stretching or physical therapy modalities are sometimes used to promote healing of the inflamed issue. Immobilization. In some severe cases of pediatric heel pain, a cast may be used to promote healing while keeping the foot and ankle totally immobile. Often heel pain in children returns after it has been treated because the heel bone is still growing. Recurrence of heel pain may be a sign of calcaneal apophysitis, or it may indicate a different problem. If your child has a repeat bout of heel pain, be sure to make an appointment with your foot and ankle surgeon.

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