Sever’s disease is a term used to describe inflammation of the calcaneal apophysis which occurs in children and adolescents. Sever first described the condition in 1912. Further studies have suggested that the condition is due to repeated ‘microtrauma’ at the site of the attachment of the Achilles tendon to the apophysis of the heel, often as result of sporting activities. The disorder can be classified among the general osteochondrosis syndromes such as Osgood-Schlatter disease.
The most common of the Sever?s disease causes is when the heel bone grows more rapidly than the muscles and tendons in the leg. The muscles and tendons become tight and put additional stress on the growth plate in the heel. When this happens, the growth plate begins to swell, becomes tender, and the child will essentially begin to feel one or more Sever?s disease symptoms. It can occur in any child as they grow, but there are some common Sever?s disease causes and risk factors that make a child more prone to the condition. They include participation in sports and other activities that put pressure on the heel, such as basketball, track, and gymnastics. A pronated foot, which makes the Achilles tendon tight, increasing the strain on the growth plate of the heel. An arch that is flat or high, affecting the angle of the heel. Short leg syndrome, when one leg is shorter than the other, causing the shorter leg to pull more on the Achilles tendon in order to reach the ground. Obesity puts extra weight on the growth plate, which can cause it to swell.
Adolescents suffering from Sever?s disease usually complain of pain at the back of their heel which is often worse after exercising. It is most common between the ages of 10-12 in boys and 8-10 in girls due to the rapid growth spurts that occur during this time. It can however happen anytime up until the age of 15. Whilst most people present with pain worse in one foot, it is very common to have symptoms in both feet.
A doctor or other health professional such as a physiotherapist can diagnose Sever?s disease by asking the young person to describe their symptoms and by conducting a physical examination. In some instances, an x-ray may be necessary to rule out other causes of heel pain, such as heel fractures. Sever?s disease does not show on an x-ray because the damage is in the cartilage.
Non Surgical Treatment
Heel pain, unlike the heel spurs, that occur in adults is very uncommon in children. Of those children who do get heel pain, by far the most common cause is a disturbance to the growing area at the back of the heel bone (calcaneus) where the strong achilles tendon attaches to it. This is known as Sever’s disease or calcaneal apophysitis (inflammation of the growth plate). It is most common between the ages of 10 to 14 years of age. These are one of several different ‘osteochondroses’ that can occur in other parts of the body, such as at the knee (Osgood-Schlatters Disease).
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.