Severs Disease In Adolescents

Overview

Sever?s disease is a condition occurring in pre-adolescents that causes pain, swelling and soreness in the heel bone, also known as the calcaneus. Sever?s disease causes pain on either side of and/or on the bottom of the heel. During a period of pre-adolescent development, the growing heel bone can be overused when the child is involved in a lot of running and jumping activities. Impact on the heel bone and repeated traction on the growing bone from the Achilles tendon can lead to swelling in the area.

Causes

The most common of the Sever?s disease causes is when the heel bone grows more rapidly than the muscles and tendons in the leg. The muscles and tendons become tight and put additional stress on the growth plate in the heel. When this happens, the growth plate begins to swell, becomes tender, and the child will essentially begin to feel one or more Sever?s disease symptoms. It can occur in any child as they grow, but there are some common Sever?s disease causes and risk factors that make a child more prone to the condition. They include participation in sports and other activities that put pressure on the heel, such as basketball, track, and gymnastics. A pronated foot, which makes the Achilles tendon tight, increasing the strain on the growth plate of the heel. An arch that is flat or high, affecting the angle of the heel. Short leg syndrome, when one leg is shorter than the other, causing the shorter leg to pull more on the Achilles tendon in order to reach the ground. Obesity puts extra weight on the growth plate, which can cause it to swell.

Symptoms

The main symptom of sever's disease is pain and tenderness at the back of the heel which is made worse with physical activity. Tenderness will be felt especially if you press in or give the back of the heel a squeeze from the sides. There may be a lump over the painful area. Another sign is tight calf muscles resulting with reduced range of motion at the ankle. Pain may go away after a period of rest from sporting activities only to return when the young person goes back to training.

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

The immediate goal of treatment is pain relief. Because symptoms generally worsen with activity, the main treatment for Sever's disease is rest, which helps to relieve pressure on the heel bone, decreasing swelling and reducing pain. As directed by the doctor, a child should cut down on or avoid all activities that cause pain until all symptoms are gone, especially running barefoot or on hard surfaces because hard impact on the feet can worsen pain and inflammation. The child might be able to do things that do not put pressure on the heel, such as swimming and biking, but check with a doctor first.

Surgical Treatment

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.
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