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n the growing child there are a number of different ways that bones grow. In the calcaneus (heel bone), growth comes from two separate growth plates. The lesser of the two growth plates is called the apophysis. The apophysis of the calcaneus is located between the back and the bottom of the heel at that spot that hits the ground each time we take a step. The Achilles tendon, which is the most powerful tendons in our body, attaches to the proximal aspect of the apophysis. The plantar fascia attaches to the distal aspect of the apophysis. Both the Achilles tendon and plantar fascia place traction, or pulling on the growth plate and contribute to inflammation of the secondary growth plate called apophysitis. The calcaneal apophysis is very apparent on x-ray and continues to grow until approximately age 12 in girls and age 15 in boys.
Sever?s Disease is thought to be caused by several reasons. Growth spurts. The muscles and tendons become tight due to rapid bone growth. Overuse. Sever?s Disease can also occur in children who are athletically active and overwork his or her muscles. Some physicians are beginning to caution parents about checking their children?s shoes to make sure they fit well and do not pinch or put undue pressure on the child?s feet. Pronation can also bring on Sever?s Disease.
A few signs and symptoms point to Sever?s disease, which may affect one or both heels. These include Pain at the heel or around the Achilles tendon, Heel pain during physical exercise, especially activities that require running or jumping, Worsening of pain after exercise, A tender swelling or bulge on the heel that is sore to touch, Calf muscle stiffness first thing in the morning, Limping, A tendency to tiptoe.
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
Activity Modification: to decrease the pain, limiting sporting activities is essential. Cutting back on the duration, intensity, and frequency can significantly improve symptoms. Heel cord stretching is important if heel cord tightness is present. Heel cushions/cups or soft orthotics decreases the impact on the calcaneus by distributing and cushioning the weight bearing of the heel. Use of NSAIDS. Ibuprofen (Nuprin, Motrin) or naproxen (Aleve) can decrease pain and secondary swelling. Ice. Placing cold or ice packs onto the painful heel can alleviate pain. Short-leg cast. For recalcitrant symptoms a short-leg cast is occasionally used to force rest the heel.
The surgeon may select one or more of the following options to treat calcaneal apophysitis. Reduce activity. The child needs to reduce or stop any activity that causes pain. Support the heel. Temporary shoe inserts or custom orthotic devices may provide support for the heel. Medications. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, help reduce the pain and inflammation. Physical therapy. Stretching or physical therapy modalities are sometimes used to promote healing of the inflamed issue. Immobilization. In some severe cases of pediatric heel pain, a cast may be used to promote healing while keeping the foot and ankle totally immobile. Often heel pain in children returns after it has been treated because the heel bone is still growing. Recurrence of heel pain may be a sign of calcaneal apophysitis, or it may indicate a different problem. If your child has a repeat bout of heel pain, be sure to make an appointment with your foot and ankle surgeon.