Sever’s disease or calcaneal apophysitis heel pain is a common problem with children between the ages of 8 to 13 years. It has usually been more common in boys, but with the increase of girls in athletic activities, both sexes are having equal symptoms. A high percentage of these children have tight achilles tendons and hamstrings. This condition may occur in the foot with normal arch height or flat or pronated foot, but can be especially painful in the high arch foot.
Sever condition is caused by sprain injury where the Achilles tendon attaches to the calcaneus bone at the back of the heel. Sever condition occurs in adolescent or older children, particularly active boys. It can be very painful. It is one of those conditions commonly referred to as “growing pains.” Patients are evaluated for signs of conditions that can mimic Sever condition, such as ankylosing spondylitis and other forms of arthritis. Usually Sever condition is self-limited; that is, it disappears as the child ages.
Unilateral or bilateral heel pain. Heel pain during physical exercise, especially activities that require running or jumping. Increased pain level after exercise. A tender swelling or bulge on the heel that is painful on touch. Limping. Calf muscle stiffness first thing in the morning.
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
In general, the goals for treatment include reducing the localized areas of inflammation. We recommend that patients utilize Ibuprofen every six to eight hours as needed. Stretching exercises on a daily basis, as well as prior to activity is thought to be helpful as well. Following work-outs and increased activities, it may be helpful to apply ice over affected areas. Heel cups are also available to provide cushion in shoes. In addition, for more severe symptoms, it may be helpful to refrain from sports and/or immobilize the area for a few weeks to help reduce the inflammation.
Stretching exercises can help. It is important that your child performs exercises to stretch the hamstring and calf muscles, and the tendons on the back of the leg. The child should do these stretches 2 or 3 times a day. Each stretch should be held for about 20 seconds. Both legs should be stretched, even if the pain is only in 1 heel. Your child also needs to do exercises to strengthen the muscles on the front of the shin. To do this, your child should sit on the floor, keeping his or her hurt leg straight. One end of a bungee cord or piece of rubber tubing is hooked around a table leg. The other end is hitched around the child’s toes. The child then scoots back just far enough to stretch the cord. Next, the child slowly bends the foot toward his or her body. When the child cannot bend the foot any closer, he or she slowly points the foot in the opposite direction (toward the table). This exercise (15 repetitions of “foot curling”) should be done about 3 times. The child should do this exercise routine a few times daily.