Diagnosing Severs Disease

Overview

Sever's disease (calcaneal apophysitis) is a common cause of heel pain, particularly in physically active young people who are about to begin puberty. The cause is uncertain, but it is thought that the long calf bones of the leg grow faster than the surrounding muscle and soft tissue, causing the Achilles tendon to pull uncomfortably tight. Sever?s disease (sometimes called Sever disease) is a common cause of heel pain, particularly in the young and physically active. It usually develops just before puberty. Boys are slightly more prone to this condition than girls. Physiotherapy can help manage the symptoms of Sever?s disease so that the young person can continue to take part in physical activity. Another name for Sever?s disease is calcaneal apophysitis.

Causes

At birth, most of our foot bones are still made of cartilage, which ossifies (becomes bony) over the first few years of life. At the back of the heel, there is a growth plate that is attached to the main body of the heel bone by a cartilaginous join. At about the age of 14-15 years, this area of cartilage between the growth plate and the heel bone ossifies, fusing the area to the heel. Sever?s disease occurs when there is too much motion or strain across the growth plate, resulting in this area becoming inflamed and painful.

Symptoms

Sever?s is recognized by pain in the back and lower regions of the heel. It usually starts during or immediately following the child's growth spurt, and/or in very active individuals. The child will usually have pain during or following participation in sport, and will often be seen limping off the field or court. Symptoms of Sever's include painful heel, no swelling or warmth, night pain is absent, pain is worse with increased activity, pain which is usually relieved by rest. Children often hobble or limp from the sports field.

Diagnosis

Low-grade inflammation of the calcaneal apophysis cannot be seen on x-ray. Therefore, although x-rays are often done to rule out bony injuries in children with Sever's disease these x-rays are usually normal. Advanced Sever's disease can be seen on x-ray but usually the problem is treated before it reaches this point. Other diagnostic tests, such as bone scans or MRI's, are not usually required in typical cases of Sever's disease. These, or other tests, may be required to rule out other conditions, such as stress fractures of the calcaneus or other bony abnormalities that can mimic Severs disease.

Non Surgical Treatment

Your child's healthcare provider will ask about your child's symptoms and examine your child's feet and heels. Any of the following may be done to treat your child's pain. NSAIDs help decrease swelling and pain or fever. This medicine is available with or without a doctor's order. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people. If your child takes blood thinner medicine, always ask if NSAIDs are safe for him. Always read the medicine label and follow directions. Do not give these medicines to children under 6 months of age without direction from your child's doctor. Acetaminophen decreases pain and fever. It is available without a doctor's order. Ask how much your child should take and how often to take it. Follow directions. Acetaminophen can cause liver damage if not taken correctly. Rest will decrease swelling, and keep the heel pain from getting worse. Your child may need to decrease his regular training or exercise. He may need to completely stop running and doing other activities that put pressure on his heel until his heel pain is gone. Ask your child's healthcare provider about activities that do not put pressure on the heel. Ice should be applied on your child's heel for 15 to 20 minutes every hour or as directed. Use an ice pack, or put crushed ice in a plastic bag. Cover it with a towel. Ice helps prevent tissue damage and decreases swelling and pain. Stretching and strengthening exercises may be recommended. A healthcare provider may teach your child exercises to stretch the hamstring and calf muscles and the tendons on the back of the leg. Other exercises will help strengthen the muscles on the front of the lower leg. Your child may be told to stop exercising if he feels any pain. Shoe inserts may be needed. Your child's healthcare provider may give you heel pads or cups for your child's shoes to decrease pressure on the heel bone. You may also be given shoe inserts with firm arch support and a heel lift. Make sure your child wears good quality shoes with padded soles. Your child should not walk barefoot. An elastic wrap or compression stocking may be needed. Your child's healthcare provider may want your child to use a wrap or stocking to help decrease swelling and pain. Ask how to apply the wrap or stocking.

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