Severs Disease Therapy

Overview


Sever?s Disease is one of the most common overuse sports injuries in the U.S. It may not receive the street cred that plantar fasciitis gets, but this painful condition affecting the heel routinely affects child athletes, usually from eight to thirteen years of age, right when the bones are coming together. The pounding force causes inflammation between the bones, according to YNN, as well as injury to the growth plates themselves. While the ?disease? classification may sound scary, it?s actually a quite normal overuse sports injury that does not typically persist into adulthood.


Causes


Heel pain is very common in children because of the very nature of their growing feet and legs. In children, the heel bone (the calcaneus) is not fully developed until the age of 14 or older. Until then, new bone is forming at the growth plate of the foot (the apophysis, located at the back of the heel), an area which is softer than others due to its role in accommodating the growth. Repetitive stress on the growth plate due to walking, running and sports causes inflammation in the heel area. Because the heel's growth plate is sensitive, repeated running and pounding on hard surfaces can result in pediatric heel pain. Children and adolescents involved in football, soccer, running or basketball are especially vulnerable. Over-pronation (fallen arches and rolling inwards of the feet) will increase the stress on the growth plate and is therefore a significant cause and a major contributing factor to heel pain in children.


Symptoms


The most obvious sign of Sever's disease is pain or tenderness in one or both heels, usually at the back. The pain also might extend to the sides and bottom of the heel, ending near the arch of the foot. A child also may have these related problems, swelling and redness in the heel, difficulty walking, discomfort or stiffness in the feet upon awaking, discomfort when the heel is squeezed on both sides, an unusual walk, such as walking with a limp or on tiptoes to avoid putting pressure on the heel. Symptoms are usually worse during or after activity and get better with rest.


Diagnosis


The x-ray appearance usually shows the apophysis to be divided into multiple parts. Sometimes a series of small fragments is noted. Asymptomatic heels may also show x-ray findings of resporption, fragmentation and increased density. But they occur much less often in the normal foot. Pulling or ?traction? of the Achilles tendon on the unossified growth plate is a likely contributing factor to Sever?s disease. Excessive pronation and a tight Achilles and limited dorsiflexion may also contribute to the development of this condition.


Non Surgical Treatment


Massage the calves gently from the knee to the heel, being especially careful around the Achilles? tendon, as this will be extremely tight and tender. During this massage, flex and point the foot through normal pain-free ranges of motion to increase flexibility while massaging. Massage every other or every third day, making sure your young athlete is not still sore before massaging again. If you?re unsure how to massage, find someone in your area that uses Graston technique or Active Release Therapy for best results. Stretch your athlete?s calves. This is the most overlooked aspect of treatment for Sever?s Disease and this needs to be done every day after practice, and when first starting we recommend 2-3 times per day, allowing gravity to pull heel down, never forcing the stretch. Ice your heels, but don?t just put an ice pack there. Use a cold water soak to fully immerse the foot and calves up to the knee. We recommend using a rubbermaid can found here. Soak for 10-15 minutes. The water does not have to be frigid, just cold. Use cold water from the tap, insert the foot, then add some ice to help bring down the temperature. When your athlete is experiencing pain, ice every hour, on the hour, for as many times as possible in one day. Make sure the heel/calves are body temperature before beginning again. Support the arches. This is what has been shown in studies to reduce pain in young athletes with Sever?s Disease. If you miss out on this one, you miss out on relieving your athletes pain.


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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