Severs Disease Physical Therapy

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Overview

Sever?s disease, or calcaneal apophysitis, is a common cause of heel pain in patients whose bones are still growing; however, it is not really a disease. The pain is caused by stress at the point where the Achilles tendon meets tissue called the plantar fascia on the growth plate (apophysis) of the heel bone (calcaneus).

Sever's affects boys more often than girls. Boys are most often affected at age 12, and girls at age 9, though Sever's is typically seen in children and adolescents between the ages of 7 and 15.

Causes

During the growth spurt of early puberty, the heel bone (also called the calcaneus) sometimes grows faster than the leg muscles and tendons. This can cause the muscles and tendons to become very tight and overstretched, making the heel less flexible and putting pressure on the growth plate. The Achilles tendon (also called the heel cord) is the strongest tendon that attaches to the growth plate in the heel. Over time, repeated stress (force or pressure) on the already tight Achilles tendon damages the growth plate, causing the swelling, tenderness, and pain of Sever's disease. Such stress commonly results from physical activities and sports that involve running and jumping, especially those that take place on hard surfaces, such as track, basketball, soccer, and gymnastics.

Symptoms

Some of the most common signs and symptoms associated with Sever?s disease include. Heel pain or tenderness in one or both heels, usually at the back of the heel. Pain or discomfort upon waking, or when the heel is squeezed. Heel pain that is worse during or following activity. Limping. Heel swelling or redness. Tight calf muscles. Decreased ankle range of motion.

Diagnosis

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

In mild cases, elevating the heel through heel lifts in the shoes and decreasing activity level may be enough to control the pain. In more severe cases, orthotic therapy to help control the motion of the heel, as well as icing, elevating, and aspirin therapy may be required to alleviate the symptoms. In those children who do not respond to either therapy mentioned above, it is sometimes necessary to place the child in a below-knee cast for a period of 4-6 weeks. It is important for both the child and parents to understand that the pain and swelling associated with this disorder should resolve once the growth plate has fused to the primary bone in the heel.

Exercise

For children with Sever's disease, it is important to habitually perform exercises to stretch the hamstrings, calf muscles, and the tendons on the back of the leg. Stretching should be performed 2-3 times a day. Each stretch should be performed for 20 seconds, and both legs should be stretched, even if the pain is only in one heel. Heel cups or an inner shoe heel lifts are often recommended for patient suffering from Sever's disease. Wearing running shoes with built in heel cups can also decrease the symptoms because they can help soften the impact on the heel when walking, running, or standing.
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