Sever’s Disease (Calcaneal Aphophysitis) is not a disease, but a repetitious strain injury common in children between the ages of 8 and 14 years old. It is a common cause of heel pain, particularly in the very active child. Patients with Sever’s disease complain of pain in the bottom surface region of the back of the heel. This is where the growth plate is located, and is not fully developed or calcified in a child’s foot.
The cause of the pain in Severs disease is thought to be the tractional forces applied to the growth plate of the heel bone by the Achilles tendon at the rear of the heel bone and the plantar fascia just beneath the heel bone. This pulling force by the Achilles tendon on the growth plate is often aggravated by tight calf muscles and excessively pronated feet (i.e. feet that ?roll in? too far).
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.
A doctor or other health professional such as a physiotherapist can diagnose Sever?s disease by asking the young person to describe their symptoms and by conducting a physical examination. In some instances, an x-ray may be necessary to rule out other causes of heel pain, such as heel fractures. Sever?s disease does not show on an x-ray because the damage is in the cartilage.
Non Surgical Treatment
The disease can be treated easily and is considered to be temporary, if treated promptly and correctly. If left untreated or if treated improperly, the disease can result in a permanent heel deformity, causing future shoe-fitting difficulties. Other long-term effects can include foot arch problems, potentially resulting in plantar fasciitis or heel spurs and tight calf musculature, which can lead to Achilles tendonitis. The American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons recommends the following steps, once Sever?s disease has been diagnosed. Reduce or stop any activity that causes pain. Temporary shoe inserts or custom orthotic devices may provide support for the heel. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, may help reduce the pain and inflammation. Stretching and/or physical therapy may be used to promote healing. In severe cases, a cast may be used to keep the foot and ankle immobilized during the healing process.
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.