Sever's disease is the most common cause of heel pain in the growing child. It is due to overuse and repetitive stress of the Achilles tendon where it attaches to the heel bone.
The condition generally occurs in active children at early adolescence during rapid growth periods as the heel bone can grow faster than the leg muscles causing them to become tight and overstretched. Sever?s disease most often caused by inadequate footwear, playing sport on hard surfaces, calf tightness and biomechanical problems.
Severs causes swelling, pain and tenderness over the back of the heel. Your child may walk with a limp. Initially the pain may be intermittent occurring only during or after exercise. As the problem gets worse, pain may be present most of the time. The swelling increases and is painful when touched or knocked. It commonly affects boys who are having a growth spurt during their pre-teen or teenage years. One or both knees may be affected.
Low-grade inflammation of the calcaneal apophysis cannot be seen on x-ray. Therefore, although x-rays are often done to rule out bony injuries in children with Sever's disease these x-rays are usually normal. Advanced Sever's disease can be seen on x-ray but usually the problem is treated before it reaches this point. Other diagnostic tests, such as bone scans or MRI's, are not usually required in typical cases of Sever's disease. These, or other tests, may be required to rule out other conditions, such as stress fractures of the calcaneus or other bony abnormalities that can mimic Severs disease.
Non Surgical Treatment
Initially, treatment will consist of resting from activity, ice and anti-inflammatory medications to reduce the pain. Your physiotherapist may also use a variety of pain reducing techniques such as soft tissue massage or joint mobilisations. They may recommend taping to unload the area of pain, heel cups or wedge inserts into the bottom of your shoe. Also in the initial phase we may also refer you to podiatry for orthotics and/or further footwear recommendations. It is also ideal in the first instance to start stretching your calf muscles and achilles. This initial phase typically lasts for 1-2 weeks. During this time your physiotherapist will guide you on appropriate levels of activity- they may recommend you rest from impact type activities during this phase, and will guide you on the best program to return to your sport without any further injury.
One of the most important things to know about Sever's disease is that, with proper care, the condition usually goes away within 2 weeks to 2 months and does not cause any problems later in life. The sooner Sever's disease is addressed, the quicker recovery is. Most kids can return to physical activity without any trouble once the pain and other symptoms go away. Although Sever's disease generally heals quickly, it can recur if long-term measures are not taken to protect the heel during a child's growing years. One of the most important is to make sure that kids wear proper shoes. Good quality, well-fitting shoes with shock-absorbent (padded) soles help to reduce pressure on the heel. The doctor may also recommend shoes with open backs, such as sandals or clogs, that do not rub on the back of the heel. Shoes that are heavy or have high heels should be avoided. Other preventive measures include continued stretching exercises and icing of the affected heel after activity.