Coping With Severs Disease

Overview

Sever?s disease is a painful condition of the heel affecting children, usually at the beginning of the growth spurt in early puberty. It is caused by inflammation at the growth plate at the back of the heel, adjacent to the Achilles tendon attachment. This is one of the most common causes of heel pain in school-aged children. Physically active children aged between eight and fourteen years old are most at risk of developing pain from Sever?s disease. It is common among children involved in soccer, little athletics, gymnastics, basketball and netball but can affect children involved in any running or jumping activity. Boys seem to be more commonly affected than girls.

Causes

Overuse and stress on the heel bone through participation in sports is a major cause of calcaneal apophysitis. The heel?s growth plate is sensitive to repeated running and pounding on hard surfaces, resulting in muscle strain and inflamed tissue. For this reason, children and adolescents involved in soccer, track, or basketball are especially vulnerable. Other potential causes of calcaneal apophysitis include obesity, a tight Achilles tendon, and biomechanical problems such as flatfoot or a high-arched foot.

Symptoms

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.

Diagnosis

Sever?s disease is diagnosed based on a doctor?s physical examination of the lower leg, ankle, and foot. If the diagnosis is in question, the doctor may order x-rays or an MRI to determine if there are other injuries that may be causing the heel pain.

Non Surgical Treatment

Treatment is initially focused on reducing the present pain and limitations and then on preventing recurrence. Limitation of activity (especially running and jumping) usually is necessary. In Micheli and Ireland's study, 84% of 85 patients were able to resume sports activities after 2 months. If the symptoms are not severe enough to warrant limiting sports activities or if the patient and parents are unwilling to miss a critical portion of the sport season, wearing a half-inch inner-shoe heel lift (at all times during ambulation), a monitored stretching program, presport and postsport icing, and judicious use of anti-inflammatory agents normally reduce the symptoms and allow continued participation. If symptoms worsen, activity modification must be included. For severe cases, short-term (2-3 weeks) cast treatment in mild equinus can be used.

Prevention

The old adage, "An once of prevention is worth a pound of cure," is most appropriate when trying to prevent the effects of Sever's Disease. If this condition is not prevented, or treated in its earliest stages, it may cause the child to stop certain sports activities until the growth plate has fused and matured (this usually occurs around the age of 16 years old). Long Term Treatment and Prevention must be directed towards protecting the growth plate at the back of the heel during a child's growing years. Being aware of the following best does this. If the child is very active in sports that require repetitive and exertive activities, then the parents must be vigilant when it comes to the child's gait, watching to see if he or she is limping, walking on their toes, or complaining of heel pain when weight-bearing. These may be "early warning signs" of Sever's Disease. Along with these signs, if your child has any of the Predisposing Hereditary Factors listed above, the chances of Sever's Disease occurring increased.

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