Severs? disease usually presents with pain in either one or both of a sufferer?s heels. The area can be sore or tender, particularly first thing in the morning or after squeezing. Because the pain is focussed on the heel, an important part of the foot that makes contact with the ground through virtually all movement, sufferers often have to limp to alleviate their discomfort. The pain of Severs? disease is at its worst after any exertion that involves contact between a heel and the ground, particularly strenuous exercise like running or sport. The condition is caused by the wear and tear of structures in the heel, most significantly the heel bone and any attached tendons. Severs? disease is prevalent in young children who are extremely active, particularly as the heel and its attached tendons are still growing in the age group the condition most commonly affects (7-14).
Growth plates, also called epiphyseal plates, occur at the end of long bones in children who are still growing. These plates are at either end of growing bones, and are the place where cartilage turns into bone. As children grow, these plates eventually become bone (a process called ossification). During a growth spurt, the bone in the heel may outpace the growth of the muscles and tendons that are attached to the heel, such as the Achilles tendon. During weight bearing, the muscles and tendons begin to tighten, which in turn puts stress on the growth plate in the heel. The heel is not very flexible, and the constant pressure on it begins to cause the symptoms of Sever?s disease. Sever?s disease is common, and it does not predispose a child to develop any other diseases or conditions in the leg, foot, or heel. It typically resolves on its own.
Pain is usually felt at the back of the heel and around the sides of the heel. If you squeeze the back of the heel from both sides simultaneously and pain is experienced Sever?s disease is more than likely present.
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
Your child may need to change or stop doing the activities that cause pain until the growth plate heals. Your child needs to wear shoes with good padding in the heels and good arch support. Special shoes or shoe inserts may help. Pain from Sever's disease may last weeks to months. The pain may come back if your child returns to sports or strenuous activities too soon.
Properly stretching to maintain flexibility is effective for preventing Sever's disease. Stretches should target the calves, heel cords, and hamstrings. Your child should do the appropriate stretches two or three times a day, holding the stretch for about 20 seconds each time. Ask your child's doctor for specific exercise instructions. Generally, doctors advise stretching both legs, even if the pain is confined to one heel. It's also helpful to strengthen the shin muscles by having your youngster pull his toes in with a rubber exercise band or a piece of tubing and then stretch them forward. Assist your child in doing 15 repetitions of this exercise, three times a day. Having your child wear shoes with good shock absorbers and avoid running on hard surfaces as much as possible should also help prevent the condition.