What Is Severs Disease?

Overview

Sever's Disease is a serious type of 'growing pain' rooted in the fact that the rate of growth of a child's heel bones is slower than that of the ligaments of the leg. The heel bone is one of the first bones in the human body to reach full size, and it is prone to injury because it is not flexible or elastic. As a child goes through growth spurts of the heel bone, the Achilles tendon, which connects the calf muscle to the heel, may be struggling to play catch-up, due to its slower rate of growth. In this scenario, the tendon and leg muscles can become strained, tight and over-stretched. As the child walks, runs or plays, repetitive pressure is placed on the tendon, and the tension can cause damage to the growing heel bone, resulting in pain and inflammation.

Causes

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.

Symptoms

The symptoms include pain, tenderness, swelling or redness in the heel, and they might have difficulty walking or putting pressure on the heel. If you notice that your child suddenly starts walking around on their toes because their heels hurt, that?s a dead giveaway. Kids who play sports might also complain of foot pain after a game or practice. As they grow, the muscles and tendons will catch up and eventually the pressure will subside along with the pain. But in the meantime, it can become very uncomfortable.

Diagnosis

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

In mild cases, elevating the heel through heel lifts in the shoes and decreasing activity level may be enough to control the pain. In more severe cases, orthotic therapy to help control the motion of the heel, as well as icing, elevating, and aspirin therapy may be required to alleviate the symptoms. In those children who do not respond to either therapy mentioned above, it is sometimes necessary to place the child in a below-knee cast for a period of 4-6 weeks. It is important for both the child and parents to understand that the pain and swelling associated with this disorder should resolve once the growth plate has fused to the primary bone in the heel.

Exercise

Stretching exercises can help. It is important that your child performs exercises to stretch the hamstring and calf muscles, and the tendons on the back of the leg. The child should do these stretches 2 or 3 times a day. Each stretch should be held for about 20 seconds. Both legs should be stretched, even if the pain is only in 1 heel. Your child also needs to do exercises to strengthen the muscles on the front of the shin. To do this, your child should sit on the floor, keeping his or her hurt leg straight. One end of a bungee cord or piece of rubber tubing is hooked around a table leg. The other end is hitched around the child's toes. The child then scoots back just far enough to stretch the cord. Next, the child slowly bends the foot toward his or her body. When the child cannot bend the foot any closer, he or she slowly points the foot in the opposite direction (toward the table). This exercise (15 repetitions of "foot curling") should be done about 3 times. The child should do this exercise routine a few times daily.

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