Diagnosing Severs Disease

Overview

Sever?s disease is caused by the growth plate in the heel becoming inflamed, and it is the most common cause of heel pain in adolescents. This condition is especially prevalent in children who play sports. Treatment includes ice, rest, and pain relievers to manage pain and discomfort. Any underlying foot conditions may also need to be assessed and managed. Sever?s disease does not cause any permanent damage, and will resolve when the growth of the heel is complete. Sever?s disease (also called calcaneal apophysitis) is a condition that occurs in the growth plate of the heel bone (the calcaneus) in children and adolescents. When the muscles and tendons in the leg and heel exert too much pressure on this growth plate, swelling and pain can result.

Causes

There is no specific known cause of Sever?s disease. However, there are several common factors associated with the condition including. Tight calf muscles. Pronated foot type (rolled in towards the ankle). Children who are heavier. Puberty/growth spurts. External factors, e.g. hard surfaces or poor footwear. Increase in physical activity levels.

Symptoms

Pain is usually felt at the back and side of the heel bone. Sometimes there may be pain at the bottom of the heel. The pain is usually relieved when the child is not active and becomes painful with sport. Squeezing the sides of the heel bone is often painful. Running and jumping make the symptoms worse. One or both heels can be affected. In more severe cases, the child may be limping.

Diagnosis

Radiography. Most of the time radiographs are not helpful because the calcaneal apophysis is frequently fragmented and dense in normal children. But they can be used to exclude other traumas. Ultrasonography. could show the fragmentation of secondary nucleus of ossification of the calcaneus in severs?s disease. This is a safe diagnostic tool since there is no radiation. This diagnostic tool can also be used to exclude Achilles tendinitis and/or retrocalcaneal bursitis.

Non Surgical Treatment

Activity Modification: to decrease the pain, limiting sporting activities is essential. Cutting back on the duration, intensity, and frequency can significantly improve symptoms. Heel cord stretching is important if heel cord tightness is present. Heel cushions/cups or soft orthotics decreases the impact on the calcaneus by distributing and cushioning the weight bearing of the heel. Use of NSAIDS. Ibuprofen (Nuprin, Motrin) or naproxen (Aleve) can decrease pain and secondary swelling. Ice. Placing cold or ice packs onto the painful heel can alleviate pain. Short-leg cast. For recalcitrant symptoms a short-leg cast is occasionally used to force rest the heel.

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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