Sever's disease is an overuse syndrome involving an immature part of the skeleton. Pain goes away when the overuse is over, or when the growing is done. Hence, the disease is self-limited, in that the pain goes away eventually when growth in the heel bone is complete at about age 13. Even if the child is hurting, as long as he can tolerate it, he may continue to take part in sports. No long term disability is expected from this problem.
With early puberty, the growth plate at the end of the heel develops, transforming cartilage cells into bone cells. This painful heel condition occurs during these growth spurts, when the heel bone grows more rapidly than the muscles and tendons of the leg. The discrepancy between rates of development causes excess pressure and tension to be placed upon the heel and it becomes less flexible. This condition affects active children the most. Due to the amount of exercise, more stress is placed upon the tendons which in turn causes more damage to the growth plate. The bone plates fully mature and harden by the time a child reaches the age of 15.
On examination, the typical signs are tenderness on palpation of the heel, particularly on deep palpation at the Achilles tendon insertion. Pain on dorsiflexion of the ankle, particularly when doing active toe raises; forced dorsiflexion of the ankle is also uncomfortable. Swelling of the heel, usually mild. Calcaneal enlargement, in long-standing cases.
Your podiatrist will take a comprehensive medical history and perform a physical examination including a gait analysis. The assessment will include foot posture assessment, joint flexibility (or range of motion), biomechanical assessment of the foot, ankle and leg, foot and leg muscle strength testing, footwear assessment, school shoes and athletic footwear, gait analysis, to look for abnormalities in the way the feet move during gait, Pain provocation tests eg calcaneal squeeze test. X-rays are not usually required to diagnose Sever?s disease.
Non Surgical Treatment
A doctor, sports therapist or physiotherapist can apply a plaster cast or boot if the child is in severe pain. This may be worn for a few days or even weeks and should give relief of pain for a while. Carry out a full biomechanical assessment. This may help to determine if any foot biomechanics issues are contributing to the condition. Orthotics or insoles can be prescribed to help correct over pronation or other biomechanics issues. Prescribe anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen to reduce pain and inflammation. This will not be prescribed if asthma the child has asthma. In persistent cases X-rays may be taken but this is not usual. A doctor, sports therapist or physiotherapist will NOT give a steroid injection or operate as these are not suitable treatment options. The condition will usually settle within 6 months, although it can persist for longer.
This condition is self limiting, it will go away when the two parts of bony growth join together, this is natural. Unfortunately, Sever's disease can be very painful and limit sport activity of the child while waiting for it to go away, so treatment is often advised to help relieve it. In a few cases of Sever's disease, the treatment is not successful and these children will be restricted in their activity levels until the two growth areas join, usually around the age of 16 years. There are no known long term complications associated with Sever's disease.