Coping With Severs Disease

Overview

Sever's disease is the most common cause of heel pain in the growing child. It is due to overuse and repetitive stress of the Achilles tendon where it attaches to the heel bone.

Causes

A big tendon called the Achilles tendon joins the calf muscle at the back of the leg to the heel. Sever?s disease is thought to occur because of a mismatch in growth of the calf bones to the calf muscle and Achilles tendon. If the bones grow faster than the muscles, the Achilles tendon that attaches the muscle to the heel gets tight. At the same time, until the cartilage of the calcaneum is ossified (turned into bone), it is a potential weak spot. The tight calf muscle and Achilles tendon cause a traction injury on this weak spot, resulting in inflammation and pain. Sever?s disease most commonly affects boys aged ten to 12 years and girls aged nine to 11 years, when growth spurts are beginning. Sever?s disease heals itself with time, so it is known as self-limiting. There is no evidence to suggest that Sever?s disease causes any long term problems or complications.

Symptoms

Symptoms include complaints of pain or tenderness in the heel (or heels), discomfort when heel is squeezed, limping, and more severe pain after walking, running or playing sports. Sever?s disease is directly related to overuse of the bone and tendons in the heel. This can come from playing sports or anything that involves lots of heel movements and hard shoes such as cleats. It can be associated with starting a new sport, or the start of a new season. It occurs more commonly in children who pronate (feet roll inward), and involves both heels in more than half of patients.

Diagnosis

A doctor can usually tell that a child has Sever's disease based on the symptoms reported. To confirm the diagnosis, the doctor will probably examine the heels and ask about the child's activity level and participation in sports. The doctor might also use the squeeze test, squeezing the back part of the heel from both sides at the same time to see if doing so causes pain. The doctor might also ask the child to stand on tiptoes to see if that position causes pain. Although imaging tests such as X-rays generally are not that helpful in diagnosing Sever's disease, some doctors order them to rule out other problems, such as fractures. Sever's disease cannot be seen on an X-ray.

Non Surgical Treatment

The physiotherapist will thoroughly assess the affected areas and general mechanics to determine what factors may be contributing, also to rule out any other injuries or stress fractures, etc. Treatment focusing on the affected area will consist of modified rest, ice, massage, stretches and electrotherapy. A foam heel raise may also be given to help decrease pain. The physiotherapist may also treat other areas if biomechanical problems are noted. This may include massage, mobilization and exercises to stretch and strengthen certain areas. They may also refer the patient to see a podiatrist if they believe the foot posture is a factor.

Exercise

Exercises that help to stretch the calf muscles and hamstrings are effective at treating Sever's disease. An exercise known as foot curling, in which the foot is pointed away from the body, then curled toward the body in order to help stretch the muscles, has also proven to be very effective at treating Sever's disease. The curling exercise should be done in sets of 10 or 20 repetitions, and repeated several times throughout the day.

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