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What Is Severs Disease?

Overview

Sever?s disease is a painful condition of the heel affecting children, usually at the beginning of the growth spurt in early puberty. It is caused by inflammation at the growth plate at the back of the heel, adjacent to the Achilles tendon attachment. This is one of the most common causes of heel pain in school-aged children. Physically active children aged between eight and fourteen years old are most at risk of developing pain from Sever?s disease. It is common among children involved in soccer, little athletics, gymnastics, basketball and netball but can affect children involved in any running or jumping activity. Boys seem to be more commonly affected than girls.

Causes

Contraction of the calf muscles along with the rapid growth of the leg bone (tibia), decreases ankle motion and increases strain on the heel area. This puts strain on the Achilles tendon. Injury results from repetitive pulling through the heel bone by the Achilles and the traction forces from the plantar fascia.

Symptoms

Symptoms include heel pain related to sports activities and worsen after those sport and exercise activities. However, some children who are not in a sport may also get this if they are physically active. If you notice that your child is ?walking on their toes? this is a sign of possible heel pain. The pain is usually on the back of the heel, the sides of the heel, the bottom of the heel, or a combination of all of these. We typically don't see swelling with this, however if pressure is applied to the sides of the heel pain may be reported. Sometimes the pain is so bad the child will have to limp, or take a break from sports activity either for a few days or few months.

Diagnosis

Sever's disease is diagnosed based on a doctor?s physical examination of the lower leg, ankle, and foot. If the diagnosis is in question, the doctor may order X-rays or an MRI to determine if there are other injuries that may be causing the heel pain.

Non Surgical Treatment

The treatment of Sever's disease should be individualized. The most important first steps in the treatment of Sever's disease are activity modification (including rest and sometimes crutches) and good shoes. Further treatment may include icing to decrease pain around the calcaneal apophysis, stretching and strengthening exercises, shoe orthotics or medications to relieve pain. Rarely, a removable cast is necessary to completely rest the foot.

Exercise

The following exercises are commonly prescribed to patients with Severs disease. You should discuss the suitability of these exercises with your physiotherapist prior to beginning them. Generally, they should be performed 1 - 3 times daily and only provided they do not cause or increase symptoms. Your physiotherapist can advise when it is appropriate to begin the initial exercises and eventually progress to the intermediate, advanced and other exercises. As a general rule, addition of exercises or progression to more advanced exercises should take place provided there is no increase in symptoms. Calf Stretch with Towel. Begin this stretch in long sitting with your leg to be stretched in front of you. Your knee and back should be straight and a towel or rigid band placed around your foot as demonstrated. Using your foot, ankle and the towel, bring your toes towards your head as far as you can go without pain and provided you feel no more than a mild to moderate stretch in the back of your calf, Achilles tendon or leg. Hold for 5 seconds and repeat 10 times at a mild to moderate stretch provided the exercise is pain free. Calf Stretch with Towel. Begin this exercise with a resistance band around your foot and your foot and ankle held up towards your head. Slowly move your foot and ankle down against the resistance band as far as possible and comfortable without pain, tightening your calf muscle. Very slowly return back to the starting position. Repeat 10 - 20 times provided the exercise is pain free. Once you can perform 20 repetitions consistently without pain, the exercise can be progressed by gradually increasing the resistance of the band provided there is no increase in symptoms. Bridging. Begin this exercise lying on your back in the position demonstrated. Slowly lift your bottom pushing through your feet, until your knees, hips and shoulders are in a straight line. Tighten your bottom muscles (gluteals) as you do this. Hold for 2 seconds then slowly lower your bottom back down. Repeat 10 times provided the exercise is pain free.
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