A common cause of heel pain in growing adolescents, particularly those that are actively participating in sport is a condition known as Severs disease. While the suggestion of a ?disease? to your child may conjure up images of a life threatening disorder crippling your child, Severs disease is not nearly so sinister and can be easily fixed.
The more active a child is then the greater the chance of suffering from Sever?s disease. Poor foot function such as flat feet causes the calf and Achilles to work harder and pull on the growth plate leading to Sever?s disease. Tight calves or Achilles is common in growing children and can increase tension on the growth plate.
The most prominent symptom of Sever’s disease is heel pain which is usually aggravated by physical activity such as walking, running or jumping. The pain is localised to the posterior and plantar side of the heel over the calcaneal apophysis. Sometimes, the pain may be so severe that it may cause limping and interfere with physical performance in sports. External appearance of the heel is almost always normal, and signs of local disease such as edema, erythema (redness) are absent. The main diagnostic tool is pain on medial- lateral compression of the calcaneus in the area of growth plate, so called squeeze test. Foot radiographs are usually normal. Therefore the diagnosis of Sever’s disease is primarily clinical.
X-rays are normal in Sever’s disease, but your doctor will probably get X-rays to rule out other problems. Treatment consists of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications and use of a heel lift to relieve tension on the calcaneal apophysis. In more severe cases, phycical therapy consisting of modalities to relieve the pain, and stretching exercises may be helpful. In extreme cases, castings have been used.
Non Surgical Treatment
The following are different treatment options Rest and modify activity. Limit running and high-impact activity to rest the heel and lessen the pain. Choose one running or jumping sport to play at a time. Substitute low-impact cross-training activities to maintain cardiovascular fitness. This can include biking, swimming, using a stair-climber or elliptical machine, rowing, or inline skating. Reduce inflammation. Ice for at least 20 minutes after activity or when pain increases. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may also help. Stretch the calf. Increase calf flexibility by doing calf stretches for 30 to 45 seconds several times per day. Protect the heel. The shoe may need to be modified to provide the proper heel lift or arch support. Select a shoe with good arch support and heel lift if possible. Try heel lifts or heel cups in sports shoes, especially cleats. Try arch support in cleats if flat feet contribute to the problem. Take it one step at a time. Gradually resume running and impact activities as symptoms allow. Sever?s disease usually goes away when the growth plate (apophysis) matures, which should be by age 12 to 13 years in females and 13 to 14 years in males.
The following exercises are commonly prescribed to patients with Severs disease. You should discuss the suitability of these exercises with your physiotherapist prior to beginning them. Generally, they should be performed 1 – 3 times daily and only provided they do not cause or increase symptoms. Your physiotherapist can advise when it is appropriate to begin the initial exercises and eventually progress to the intermediate, advanced and other exercises. As a general rule, addition of exercises or progression to more advanced exercises should take place provided there is no increase in symptoms. Calf Stretch with Towel. Begin this stretch in long sitting with your leg to be stretched in front of you. Your knee and back should be straight and a towel or rigid band placed around your foot as demonstrated. Using your foot, ankle and the towel, bring your toes towards your head as far as you can go without pain and provided you feel no more than a mild to moderate stretch in the back of your calf, Achilles tendon or leg. Hold for 5 seconds and repeat 10 times at a mild to moderate stretch provided the exercise is pain free. Calf Stretch with Towel. Begin this exercise with a resistance band around your foot and your foot and ankle held up towards your head. Slowly move your foot and ankle down against the resistance band as far as possible and comfortable without pain, tightening your calf muscle. Very slowly return back to the starting position. Repeat 10 – 20 times provided the exercise is pain free. Once you can perform 20 repetitions consistently without pain, the exercise can be progressed by gradually increasing the resistance of the band provided there is no increase in symptoms. Bridging. Begin this exercise lying on your back in the position demonstrated. Slowly lift your bottom pushing through your feet, until your knees, hips and shoulders are in a straight line. Tighten your bottom muscles (gluteals) as you do this. Hold for 2 seconds then slowly lower your bottom back down. Repeat 10 times provided the exercise is pain free.