Sever?s disease is a common cause of heel pain, particularly in the young and physically active. Just before puberty the calf bones typically grow faster than the surrounding soft tissue, which means the Achilles tendon is pulled uncomfortably tight. This can lead to an injured heel. Treatment includes relative rest, modifying activities and teaching the young person how to manage the condition when a flare-up happens. Sever?s disease is self-limiting and rarely causes long-term problems.
Sever?s disease is often an overuse injury. It can be caused by playing sports, especially those involving high impact. Sever?s disease can also be linked to growth which can place a stress on the attachment of the Achilles tendon.
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.
To diagnose the cause of the child?s heel pain and rule out other more serious conditions, the foot and ankle surgeon obtains a thorough medical history and asks questions about recent activities. The surgeon will also examine the child?s foot and leg. X-rays are often used to evaluate the condition. Other advanced imaging studies and laboratory tests may also be ordered.
Non Surgical Treatment
The doctor might recommend that a child with Sever's disease perform foot and leg exercises to stretch and strengthen the leg muscles and tendons, elevate and apply ice (wrapped in a towel, not applied directly to the skin) to the injured heel for 20 minutes two or three times per day, even on days when the pain is not that bad, to help reduce swelling, use an elastic wrap or compression stocking that is designed to help decrease pain and swelling, take an over-the-counter medicine to reduce pain and swelling, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin). Children should not be given aspirin for pain due to the risk of a very serious illness called Reye syndrome. In very severe cases, the doctor might recommend that the child wear a cast for anywhere from 2 to 12 weeks to immobilize the foot so that it can heal.
Sever?s disease is self-recovering, meaning that it will go away on its own when the foot is used less or when the bone is through growing. The condition is not expected to create any long-term disability, and expected to subside in 2-8 weeks. Some orthopedic surgeons will put the affected foot in a cast to immobilize it. While symptoms can resolve quickly, they can recur. Sever's disease is more common in boys than girls the average age of symptom onset is nine to eleven years.