Sever's disease is a common cause of heel pain, particularly in the young and physically active. During puberty the calcaneus consist of two areas of bone known as ossification centres. These two
areas are divided by an area of cartilage known as the calcaneal apophysitis. See x-ray (right) for two ossification centres of heel. The Achilles tendon attaches the triceps surae (calf muscles) to
the calcaneus (heel bone). As a child grows the calcaneus grow faster than the surrounding soft tissue, which means the Achilles tendon is pulled uncomfortably tight. This increase in tensile load
can cause inflammation and irritation of the calcaneal apophysis (growth plate) which is known as Sever's Disease. The pain is exacerbated by physical activities, especially ones involving running or
jumping. Sever's disease most commonly affects boys aged 12 to 14 years and girls aged 10 to 12 years, which corresponds with the early growth spurts of puberty.
During the growth spurt of early puberty, the bones often grow faster than the leg muscles and tendons. This can cause the muscles to become very tight and overstretched, the heel becomes less
flexible and this build-up of pressure can result in redness, swelling, tenderness and pain at the heel.
Most children with Sever's complain of pain in the heel that occurs during or after activity (typically running or jumping) and is usually relieved by rest. The pain may be worse when wearing cleats.
Sixty percent of children's with Sever's report experiencing pain in both heels.
A doctor can usually tell that a child has Sever's disease based on the symptoms reported. To confirm the diagnosis, the doctor will probably examine the heels and ask about the child's activity
level and participation in sports. The doctor might also use the squeeze test, squeezing the back part of the heel from both sides at the same time to see if doing so causes pain. The doctor might
also ask the child to stand on tiptoes to see if that position causes pain. Although imaging tests such as X-rays generally are not that helpful in diagnosing Sever's disease, some doctors order them
to rule out other problems, such as fractures. Sever's disease cannot be seen on an X-ray.
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.