Ardis Deaguiar

Caring for your feet.

Severs Disease Physical Therapy

Overview

Sever?s disease or Sever?s lesion refers to an injury to the bone growth plate at the back of the heel bone (calcaneous) in young people, particularly those who are physically active. It usually develops in puberty and is slightly more common in boys than girls.

Causes

Severs disease is caused by repetitive excessive force to the growing area of the heel bone, causing injury to this area. The calf muscles (soleus and gastrocnemius) are attached by the Achilles tendon to the calcaneus (heel bone). They exert a huge force during running , jumping and landing. In children, there is a growing area in the heel bone called the apophysis and is made of relatively weak cartilage. If there is excessive force at this relatively weak point damage occurs. This excess force can be caused by a number of factors. During the adolescent growth spurt the bones grow very quickly. The muscles do not grow out at the same rate as the bone grows and so can become very tight. The calf muscles generate huge forces when they are used to run, jump and land. This force is transmitted to the calcaneal apophysis (growth area). The gastrocnemius muscle spans both the ankle and knee joint. Tightness of this or any other muscles of the lower limb (hamstring or quadriceps) cause extra force at the growing (weak) area. In active children, who undertake a lot of exercise, the repetitive high force causes damage. If your child has poor biomechanics due to poor lower limb alignment (often caused by flat feet), the muscles of the lower limb have to work excessively hard and this can cause increased force at the tibial tubercle.

Symptoms

The most obvious sign of Sever's disease is pain or tenderness in one or both heels, usually at the back. The pain also might extend to the sides and bottom of the heel, ending near the arch of the foot. A child also may have these related problems, swelling and redness in the heel, difficulty walking, discomfort or stiffness in the feet upon awaking, discomfort when the heel is squeezed on both sides, an unusual walk, such as walking with a limp or on tiptoes to avoid putting pressure on the heel. Symptoms are usually worse during or after activity and get better with rest.

Diagnosis

Physical examination varies depending on the severity and length of involvement. Bilateral involvement is present in approximately 60% of cases. Most patients experience pain with deep palpation at the Achilles insertion and pain when performing active toe raises. Forced dorsiflexion of the ankle also proves uncomfortable and is relieved with passive equinus positioning. Swelling may be present but usually is mild. In long-standing cases, the child may have calcaneal enlargement.

Non Surgical Treatment

The good news is that the condition doesn?t cause any long-term foot problems. Symptoms typically go away after a few months. The best treatment is simply rest. Your child will need to stop or cut down on sports until the pain gets better. When she's well enough to return to her sport, have her build up her playing time gradually. Your doctor may also recommend ice packs or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen or naproxen, to relieve the pain. Supportive shoes and inserts that reduce stress on the heel bone. These can help if your child has another foot problem that aggravates Sever?s disease, such as flat feet or high arches. Stretching and strengthening exercises, perhaps with the help of a physical therapist. In severe cases, your child may need a cast so her heel is forced to rest.

Exercise

For children with Sever's disease, it is important to habitually perform exercises to stretch the hamstrings, calf muscles, and the tendons on the back of the leg. Stretching should be performed 2-3 times a day. Each stretch should be performed for 20 seconds, and both legs should be stretched, even if the pain is only in one heel. Heel cups or an inner shoe heel lifts are often recommended for patient suffering from Sever's disease. Wearing running shoes with built in heel cups can also decrease the symptoms because they can help soften the impact on the heel when walking, running, or standing.
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