Living With Severs Disease

Overview

Pain in the heel of a child’s foot, typically brought on by some form of injury or trauma, is sometimes Sever’s Disease. The disease often mimics Achilles tendonitis, an inflammation of the tendon attached to the back of the heel. A tight Achilles tendon may contribute to Sever’s Disease by pulling excessively on the growth plate of the heel bone. This condition is most common in younger children and is frequently seen in the active soccer, football or baseball player. Sport shoes with cleats are also known to aggravate the condition. Treatment includes calf muscle stretching exercises, heel cushions in the shoes, and/or anti-inflammatory medications. Consult your physician before taking any medications.

Causes

The cause of Sever’s Disease is not entirely clear but it is most likely due to repeated minor trauma that occurs during high-impact activities that involve running and jumping such as soccer, basketball, and gymnastics. It may also occur when an active child regularly wears shoes with poor heel padding, shock absorbency, or poor arch support. Some additional contributing factors are excessive pronation, an overly tight calf muscle, and other flaws in the biomechanics of a child’s walking stride. Children who are overweight are also at greater risk of developing Sever’s Disease.

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

Sever?s disease can be diagnosed based on your history and symptoms. Clinically, your physiotherapist will perform a “squeeze test” and some other tests to confirm the diagnosis. Some children suffer Sever?s disease even though they do less exercise than other. This indicates that it is not just training volume that is at play. Foot and leg biomechanics are a predisposing factor. The main factors thought to predispose a child to Sever?s disease include decrease ankle dorsiflexion, abnormal hind foot motion eg overpronation or supination, tight calf muscles, excessive weight-bearing activities eg running.

Non Surgical Treatment

There is nothing you can do to stop severs disease. It will stop when you finish growing. However the following will help to relieve the symptoms. Rest. Cut down on the time you spend playing sport until the pain has gone. Avoid sports that involve a lot of running or jumping. Swimming can be a useful alternative. Ice the affected area for ten to 15 minutes, especially after activity. Make sure you protect the skin by wrapping the ice in a towel. Elevate (raise) the leg when painful and swollen especially after sports. Pain relieving medication may reduce pain and swelling, but you need to discuss options with a pharmacist or GP. Always wear shoes. Avoid activities in bare feet. Choose a supportive shoe with the laces done up.

Recovery

Severs disease is a self limiting condition that gradually resolves as the patient moves towards skeletal maturity. This usually takes between 6 to 12 months, but may persist for as long as 2 years. With appropriate management, symptoms may resolve in a number of weeks. Patients with Severs disease typically improve gradually over time and full function is restored.