Dealing With Severs Disease

Overview

Severs? disease usually presents with pain in either one or both of a sufferer?s heels. The area can be sore or tender, particularly first thing in the morning or after squeezing. Because the pain is focussed on the heel, an important part of the foot that makes contact with the ground through virtually all movement, sufferers often have to limp to alleviate their discomfort. The pain of Severs? disease is at its worst after any exertion that involves contact between a heel and the ground, particularly strenuous exercise like running or sport. The condition is caused by the wear and tear of structures in the heel, most significantly the heel bone and any attached tendons. Severs? disease is prevalent in young children who are extremely active, particularly as the heel and its attached tendons are still growing in the age group the condition most commonly affects (7-14).

Causes

Growth plates, also called epiphyseal plates, occur at the end of long bones in children who are still growing. These plates are at either end of growing bones, and are the place where cartilage turns into bone. As children grow, these plates eventually become bone (a process called ossification). During a growth spurt, the bone in the heel may outpace the growth of the muscles and tendons that are attached to the heel, such as the Achilles tendon. During weight bearing, the muscles and tendons begin to tighten, which in turn puts stress on the growth plate in the heel. The heel is not very flexible, and the constant pressure on it begins to cause the symptoms of Sever?s disease. Sever?s disease is common, and it does not predispose a child to develop any other diseases or conditions in the leg, foot, or heel. It typically resolves on its own.

Symptoms

Children aged between 8 to 13 years of age can experience Sever?s disease with girls being normally younger and boys slightly older. Sever?s disease normally involves the back of the heel bone becoming painful towards the end of intense or prolonged activity and can remain painful after the activity for a few hours. Severe cases can result in limping and pain that can even remain the next morning after sport.

Diagnosis

Radiography. Most of the time radiographs are not helpful because the calcaneal apophysis is frequently fragmented and dense in normal children. But they can be used to exclude other traumas. Ultrasonography. could show the fragmentation of secondary nucleus of ossification of the calcaneus in severs?s disease. This is a safe diagnostic tool since there is no radiation. This diagnostic tool can also be used to exclude Achilles tendinitis and/or retrocalcaneal bursitis.

Non Surgical Treatment

The doctor might recommend that a child with Sever’s disease perform foot and leg exercises to stretch and strengthen the leg muscles and tendons, elevate and apply ice (wrapped in a towel, not applied directly to the skin) to the injured heel for 20 minutes two or three times per day, even on days when the pain is not that bad, to help reduce swelling, use an elastic wrap or compression stocking that is designed to help decrease pain and swelling, take an over-the-counter medicine to reduce pain and swelling, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin). Children should not be given aspirin for pain due to the risk of a very serious illness called Reye syndrome. In very severe cases, the doctor might recommend that the child wear a cast for anywhere from 2 to 12 weeks to immobilize the foot so that it can heal.

Prevention

Perform a well rounded dynamic warm up before activity. Perform a good static stretching routine after activity. Increase core strength. Perform exercises that emphasize active lengthening of the calf muscles. Use proper footwear. Avoid excessive running or jumping on hard surfaces like concrete by using better surfaces such as asphalt, gymnasium floors or grass.

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