Diagnosing Severs Disease

Overview

Sever?s disease (also known as calcaneal apophysitis) is a type of bone injury in which the growth plate in the lower back of the heel, where the Achilles tendon (the heel cord that attaches to the growth plate) attaches, becomes inflamed and causes pain. Sever?s disease is the most common cause of heel pain in children, especially those who exercise or play sports on a regular basis.

Causes

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.

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

To diagnose the cause of the child?s heel pain and rule out other more serious conditions, the foot and ankle surgeon obtains a thorough medical history and asks questions about recent activities. The surgeon will also examine the child?s foot and leg. X-rays are often used to evaluate the condition. Other advanced imaging studies and laboratory tests may also be ordered.

Non Surgical Treatment

Traditional treatment involved simply telling children that they can?t play sport for a year. This is not popular for children or parents and abstaining from sport leads to other problems when wanting to return. Treatments focus on improving foot and lower limb function with footwear selection, heel raises, calf stretching, prescription orthoses, run technique training and training modifications. This results in a reduced load through the growth plate and the child can perform more activity before the growth plate becomes inflamed. Rest will always reduce the Sever?s disease symptoms, however this is always the last option.

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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