Sever?s disease is a common cause of heel pain in children especially in the young and physically active. Severs disease is a painful bone disorder that results from inflammation (swelling) of the growth plate in the heel. A growth plate, also called an epiphyseal plate, is an area at the end of a developing bone where cartilage cells change over time into bone cells. As this occurs, the growth plates expand and unite. It is very important that damage to the growth plate is avoided.
Physically active children run the risk of developing Sever?s disease because they put the most strain on their growing bones. Sever?s usually occurs during the adolescent growth spurt, when young people grow most rapidly. (This growth spurt can begin any time between the ages of 8 and 13 for girls and 10 and 15 for boys.) By age 15 the back of the heel usually finished growing. As teens grow, the growth plates harden and the growing bones fuse together into mature bone. Young people engaged in physical activities and sports that involve jumping and running on hard surfaces-such as track, basketball, soccer, and gymnastics-are ata higher risk for developing Sever?s disease. Poor-fitting shoes can contribute by not providing enough support or padding for the feet or by rubbing against the back of the heel.
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 localized 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) is 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.
The doctor may order an x-ray because x-rays can confirm how mature the growth center is and if there are other sources of heel pain, such as a stress fracture or bone cyst. However, x-rays are not necessary to diagnose Sever?s disease, and it is not possible to make the diagnosis based on the x-ray alone.
Non Surgical Treatment
Treatment is primarily supportive, with rest, pain management, and activity modification. Activity modifications include the addition of low-impact activities. Gel heel cups are sold over the counter and can be used intermittently to help reduce shock in the heel, as well as take tension off of the tight Achilles?s tendon complex. Proper stretching and strengthening activities should be preformed routinely even during periods of no pain. A large study showed that approximately 85% of children affected by Sever?s disease return to full activity within a two-month time period after starting treatment.
Sever?s disease is self-recovering, meaning that it will go away on its own when sport is reduced or as the bones mature. The condition is not expected to create any long-term disability, and expected to subside in 2-8 weeks. However, while the disease does subside quickly, it can recur, for example at the start of a new sports season or during a growth spurt. If your pain does return you will need to re-introduce the above treatment plan. If the pain persists please seek further advice from your GP.