The true name of this complaint is calcaneal apophysitis which just means an inflamation of the growth centre of the bone in your heel as a result of pulling by the Achilles tendon – it is important to realise that it is not a disease but rather a condition that develops in the growing skeleton with activity. It is the most common cause of heel pain in young athletes, and is the second most common condition of its kind in the younger athelete after Osgood-Schlatter’s disease. It is often seen at a time of rapid growth during which the muscles and soft tissues become tighter as the bones get longer. It occurs more in boys than girls and is seen most commonly between the ages of 8 and 14 years though it tends to be more prevalent in the younger of this group.
The exact cause of Severs disease is not completely understood. It is thought to be associated with an overuse type injury, in which repetitive stress from the Achilles tendon causes a portion of the growth plate to pull away from the heel. In medical terms, this is described as cyclic, micro-avulsion type fractures to the calcaneal apophyses.
The most obvious sign of Sever’s disease is pain or tenderness in one or both heels, usually at the back. The pain also might extend to the sides and bottom of the heel, ending near the arch of the foot. A child also may have these related problems, swelling and redness in the heel, difficulty walking, discomfort or stiffness in the feet upon awaking, discomfort when the heel is squeezed on both sides, an unusual walk, such as walking with a limp or on tiptoes to avoid putting pressure on the heel. Symptoms are usually worse during or after activity and get better with rest.
Sever disease is most often diagnosed clinically, and radiographic evaluation is believed to be unnecessary by many physicians, but if a diagnosis of calcaneal apophysitis is made without obtaining radiographs, a lesion requiring more aggressive treatment could be missed. Foot radiographs are usually normal and the radiologic identification of calcaneal apophysitis without the absence of clinical information was not reliable.
Non Surgical Treatment
Home treatment consists of calf muscle stretching exercises, heel cushions in the shoes, and/or oral anti-inflammatory medications like Tylenol or Advil. Icing the area may provide some temporary relief. If the condition persists the child should be evaluated by a podiatrist for abnormal foot function. In severe cases a below the knee walking cast may be required. Treatment may require the use of custom-made shoe inserts called orthotics. Orthotics work by correcting foot function and will fit into most normal shoes and athletic cleats.
Treat symptoms when they occur with RICE and NO HARM. RICE (Rest Ice, Compression and Elevation) will help following activity and when symptoms flare, while No HARM (No Heat, alcohol, running or massage) will help reduce the symptoms from occurring. Orthotics. The use of an Interpod Orthotic will assist in realigning the foot, which will reduce the stress on the Achilles Tendon and prevent reoccurring symptoms. The orthotic achieves this by reducing the forces and stress placed on the limbs during walking and running. Exercise reduction. Patients may need to reduce their level of activity if this is seen as a contributing factor. Training errors. Ensue athletes warm up and cool down correctly with stretching activities. Footwear. Sporting and school shoes should have an appropriate heel height to assist in offloading of the Achilles tendon.