Sever?s disease is similar to Osgood-Schlatter disease of the knee in that they both involve a partial detachment or tearing of the tendon from the bone. The difference is location: Osgood-Schlatter occurs at the knee, and Sever?s occurs at the ankle. In Sever?s disease, which usually occurs in children from the ages of 8 to 14, the Achilles tendon begins to tear away from its insertion into the calcaneus or heel bone. This injury can be very painful and affect highly active to somewhat inactive children. Symptoms include pain that increases with activity, localized pain in the back of the foot, tenderness to the touch, and swelling. Treatment includes rest, ice, compression, elevation, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication as necessary.
The more active a child is then the greater the chance of suffering from Sever?s disease. Poor foot function such as flat feet causes the calf and Achilles to work harder and pull on the growth plate leading to Sever?s disease. Tight calves or Achilles is common in growing children and can increase tension on the growth plate.
The typical patient is a child between 10 and 13 years of age, complaining of pain in one or both heels with running and walking. The pain is localized to the point of the heel where the tendo-achilles inserts into the calcaneus (heel bone), and is tender to deep pressure at that site. Walking on his toes relieves the pain.
Most often, a healthcare professional can diagnose Sever?s disease by taking a careful history and administering a few simple tests during the physical exam. A practitioner may squeeze the heel on either side; when this move produces pain, it may be a sign of Sever?s disease. The practitioner may also ask the child to stand on their tiptoes, because pain that occurs when standing in this position can also be an indication of Sever?s disease.
Non Surgical Treatment
When the condition flares, it is treated with activity limitation, medication to reduce inflammation (such as ibuprofen [Advil] or naproxen [Aleve]), shoe inserts, heel lifts, cold packs, and sometimes casting when it becomes especially severe. Sever condition is generally a self-limited problem that usually improves within a year.
One of the most important things to know about Sever's disease is that, with proper care, the condition usually goes away within 2 weeks to 2 months and does not cause any problems later in life. The sooner Sever's disease is addressed, the quicker recovery is. Most kids can return to physical activity without any trouble once the pain and other symptoms go away. Although Sever's disease generally heals quickly, it can recur if long-term measures are not taken to protect the heel during a child's growing years. One of the most important is to make sure that kids wear proper shoes. Good quality, well-fitting shoes with shock-absorbent (padded) soles help to reduce pressure on the heel. The doctor may also recommend shoes with open backs, such as sandals or clogs, that do not rub on the back of the heel. Shoes that are heavy or have high heels should be avoided. Other preventive measures include continued stretching exercises and icing of the affected heel after activity.