Children with Sever’s disease, which is also called calcaneal apophysitis, develop microfractures where the Achilles tendon inserts on the calcaneus, the large bone that makes up the heel of the foot. These microfractures cause pain, which can vary depending on the type of activity your child is doing, and is generally worse after activity and improves with rest. Sever’s disease is more common in boys and typically occurs when a child is between 8 and 13 years old. Although it can affect both heels, it more commonly just affects one foot.
At birth, most of our foot bones are still made of cartilage, which ossifies (becomes bony) over the first few years of life. At the back of the heel, there is a growth plate that is attached to the main body of the heel bone by a cartilaginous join. At about the age of 14-15 years, this area of cartilage between the growth plate and the heel bone ossifies, fusing the area to the heel. Sever?s disease occurs when there is too much motion or strain across the growth plate, resulting in this area becoming inflamed and painful.
Acute pain, pain asscoiatied with Sever?s disease is usually felt in the heel when the child engages in physical activity such as walking, jumping and or running. Highly active – children who are very active are among the most susceptible in experiencing Sever?s disease, because of the stress and tension placed on their feet.
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
See a Podiatrist. Minimise inflammation, by the use of ice, rest and reduction of activity. Minimise pain with the use of anti-inflammatory medications. Shoes have been shown to attenuate shock and reduce impact on the heel. Effective cushioning in the rear through specifcally placed cushioning units, such as GEL under the heel. A 10mm heel gradient that creates a more efficient foot posture and therefore reducing strain on the lower limb. Sever’s is self limiting and only possible when the growth plate is still present, and does not exist once the growth plates have closed. Podiatrists have an important role to play in preventing and managing foot problems. Prompt action is important. Problems which are left without assessment or treatment may result in major health risks.