Does Severs Disease Often Require Surgical Treatments?

Overview

The calcaneal apophysis is a growth center where the Achilles tendon and the plantar fascia attach to the heel. It first appears in children aged 7 to 8 years. By ages 12 to 14 years the growth center matures and fuses to the heel bone. Injuries can occur from excessive tension on the Achilles tendon and the plantar fascia, or from direct impact on the heel. Excessive stress on this growth center can cause irritation of the heel, also called Sever?s disease.

Causes

Children are at a higher risk of developing Sever’s disease when they are in the early stages of a growth spurt. During times of growth, muscles and tendons become extremely tight. Movements during athletic activities like soccer, tennis, and gymnastics can put added force on the growth plate in the heel, which is pulled tight by the Achilles tendon. Over time, the growth plate becomes inflamed and painful. There are several other factors that can increase a child’s risk of developing Sever’s disease, including the following. Excessive pronation. Flat or high arches. Short Achilles tendon. Weight gain (which results in more force on the feet).

Symptoms

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.

Diagnosis

Sever’s disease is based on the symptoms reported. To confirm the diagnosis, the clinician will examine the heels and ask about the child’s activity level and participation in sports. They may also squeeze the back part of the heel from both sides at the same time to see if doing so causes pain and also ask the child to stand on tiptoes to see if that position causes pain. There may be tightness in the calf muscle, which contributes to tension on the heel. Symptoms are usually worse during or after activity and get better with rest. X-rays generally are not that helpful in diagnosing Sever’s disease, but they may be ordered to rule out other problems, such as fractures. Sever’s disease cannot be seen on an X-ray.

Non Surgical Treatment

Sever?s disease is believed to be the byproduct of repepitive stress and trauma to the growth plate in the calcaneous, or heel bone. The stress is from the pull of the Achilles tendon on the growth plate where the tendon attaches.

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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