Sever's disease (calcaneal apophysitis) is the term used to describe irritation (inflammation) of the calcaneal apophysis. This condition often occurs before or during the growth spurt in boys and girls, or shortly after they begin a new activity. Sever's disease is common is running and jumping sports.
The exact cause of Severs disease is not completely understood. It is thought to be associated with an overuse type injury, in which repetitive stress from the Achilles tendon causes a portion of the growth plate to pull away from the heel. In medical terms, this is described as cyclic, micro-avulsion type fractures to the calcaneal apophyses.
Sever condition causes pain at the back of the heel. The pain is increased with plantar flexion of the ankle (pushing down with the foot as if stepping on the gas), particularly against resistance. Sever condition also causes tenderness and swelling in the area of the pain.
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
Sever?s disease is a self-limiting problem, because as your child grows the growth plate will eventually fuse with the main body of the heel bone. This happens at about 14 -15 years of age. Once foot growth is complete and the growth plate has fused, the symptoms will resolve. In the meantime, treatment by your Podiatrist will help your child return to normal sporting activities without heel pain slowing him/her down.
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.