Sever disease, first described in 1912, is a painful inflammation of the calcaneal apophysis. It is classified with the child and adolescent nonarticular osteochondroses. (The other disease in this group is Iselin disease, which is inflammation of the base of the fifth metatarsal.) The etiology of pain in Sever disease is believed to be repetitive trauma to the weaker structure of the apophysis, induced by the pull of the tendo calcaneus (Achilles tendon) on its insertion. This results in a clinical picture of heel pain in a growing active child, which worsens with activity. Sever disease is a self-limited condition; accordingly, no known complication exists from failure to make the correct diagnosis.
Sever's disease also can result from standing too long, which puts constant pressure on the heel. Poor-fitting shoes can contribute to the condition by not providing enough support or padding for the feet or by rubbing against the back of the heel. Although Sever's disease can occur in any child, these conditions increase the chances of it happening, pronated foot (a foot that rolls in at the ankle when walking), which causes tightness and twisting of the Achilles tendon, thus increasing its pull on the heel's growth plate, flat or high arch, which affects the angle of the heel within the foot, causing tightness and shortening of the Achilles tendon, short leg syndrome (one leg is shorter than the other), which causes the foot on the short leg to bend downward to reach the ground, pulling on the Achilles tendon, overweight or obesity, which puts weight-related pressure on the growth plate.
This syndrome can occur unilaterally or bilaterally. The incidence of bilaterally is approximately 60%. Common signs and symptoms include posterior inferior heel pain (over the medial and lateral surface of the bone). Pain is usually absent when the child gets up in the morning. Increased pain with weight bearing, running or jumping (= activity-related pain). The area often feels stiff. The child may limp at the end of physical activity. Tenderness at the insertion of the tendons (= an avascular necrosis of the arthropathy). Limited ankle dorsiflexion range secondary to tightness of the Achilles tendon. Hard surfaces and poor-quality or worn-out athletic shoes contribute to increased symptoms. The pain gradually resolves with rest. Reliability or validity of methods used to obtain the ankle joint dorsiflexion or biomechanical malalignment data are not commented upon, thus reducing the quality of the data. Although pain and limping are mentioned as symptomatic traits, there have been no attempts to quantify the pain or its effect on the individual.
Children or adolescents who are experiencing pain and discomfort in their feet should be evaluated by a physician. In some cases, no imaging tests are needed to diagnose Sever?s disease. A podiatrist or other healthcare professional may choose to order an x-ray or imaging study, however, to ensure that there is no other cause for the pain, such as a fracture. Sever?s disease will not show any findings on an x-ray because it affects cartilage.
Non Surgical Treatment
Sever?s disease treatment should be based on eliminating pain and restoring normal foot and leg biomechanics. As with most soft tissue injuries the initial treatment is Rest, Ice, and Protect. In the early phase you?ll most likely be unable to walk pain-free. Our first aim is to provide you with some active rest from pain-provoking activities. "No Pain. No Gain." does not apply in Sever's disease. If it hurts your child is doing too much exercise. Your child should reduce or cease any activity that causes heel pain. Ice is a simple and effective modality to reduce your pain and swelling. Please apply for 20-30 minutes each 2 to 4 hours during the initial phase or when you notice that your injury is warm or hot. Most children can tolerate paracetamol as a pain reducing medication. Check with your doctor. To support and protect your heels, you may need to be wear shock absorbing heel cups or a soft orthotic. Kinesio foot taping may help to provide pain relief. Your physiotherapist will guide you and utilise a range of pain relieving techniques including joint mobilisations for stiff ankle or subtalar joints, massage or electrotherapy to assist you during this pain-full phase.
To reduce the risk of heel pain or sore heels from Sever?s Disease. Only wear properly fitting shoes. A lace up shoe with a firm heel counter. Stretch calf and foot before exercising or playing sports. Properly taping the foot provides excellent protection and immediate pain relief. Wear shoe inserts or an over-the-counter orthotic. If the problem persists, consult your foot doctor.