Diagnosing Severs Disease

Overview

It is thought to be a traction injury, where the Achilles tendon and Plantar fascia pull in opposite directions. Sever?s occurs in children aged 8 to 16 years old. In children, the heel bone is made up of 2 bones, with a growth plate of cartilage in between the sections, holding these 2 bones together. As the cartilage expands, the edges of it eventually turn to bone, and finally the gap closes. This usually occurs within the first 13-15 years of life. However, because these bones are connected by cartilage they are weaker than normal bones. This is why they are very vulnerable to injury.

Causes

Heel pain is very common in children because of the very nature of their growing feet and legs. In children, the heel bone (the calcaneus) is not fully developed until the age of 14 or older. Until then, new bone is forming at the growth plate of the foot (the apophysis, located at the back of the heel), an area which is softer than others due to its role in accommodating the growth. Repetitive stress on the growth plate due to walking, running and sports causes inflammation in the heel area. Because the heel's growth plate is sensitive, repeated running and pounding on hard surfaces can result in pediatric heel pain. Children and adolescents involved in football, soccer, running or basketball are especially vulnerable. Over-pronation (fallen arches and rolling inwards of the feet) will increase the stress on the growth plate and is therefore a significant cause and a major contributing factor to heel pain in children.

Symptoms

As a parent, you may notice your child limping while walking or running awkwardly. If you ask them to rise onto their tip toes, their heel pain usually increases. Heel pain can be felt in one or both heels in Sever's disease.

Diagnosis

In Sever's disease, heel pain can be in one or both heels. It usually starts after a child begins a new sports season or a new sport. Your child may walk with a limp. The pain may increase when he or she runs or jumps. He or she may have a tendency to tiptoe. Your child's heel may hurt if you squeeze both sides toward the very back. This is called the squeeze test. Your doctor may also find that your child's heel tendons have become tight.

Non Surgical Treatment

The good news is that the condition doesn?t cause any long-term foot problems. Symptoms typically go away after a few months. The best treatment is simply rest. Your child will need to stop or cut down on sports until the pain gets better. When she's well enough to return to her sport, have her build up her playing time gradually. Your doctor may also recommend ice packs or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen or naproxen, to relieve the pain. Supportive shoes and inserts that reduce stress on the heel bone. These can help if your child has another foot problem that aggravates Sever?s disease, such as flat feet or high arches. Stretching and strengthening exercises, perhaps with the help of a physical therapist. In severe cases, your child may need a cast so her heel is forced to rest.

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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