Physical Therapy For Severs Disease

Overview

It is thought to be a traction injury, where the Achilles tendon and Plantar fascia pull in opposite directions. Sever?s occurs in children aged 8 to 16 years old. In children, the heel bone is made up of 2 bones, with a growth plate of cartilage in between the sections, holding these 2 bones together. As the cartilage expands, the edges of it eventually turn to bone, and finally the gap closes. This usually occurs within the first 13-15 years of life. However, because these bones are connected by cartilage they are weaker than normal bones. This is why they are very vulnerable to injury.

Causes

Sever's disease is caused by repetitive tension and/or pressure on the growth center of the heel. Running and jumping place a large amount of pressure on the heels and can cause pain. Children with Sever's may limp or have an altered gait due to the pain. Risk factors for Sever's include tight calf muscles, weak ankle muscles, and alignment abnormalities at the foot and ankle. Sever's can also result from wearing shoes without sufficient heel padding or arch support.

Symptoms

Patients with Severs disease typically experience pain that develops gradually in the back of the heel or Achilles region. In less severe cases, patients may only experience an ache or stiffness in the heel that increases with rest (especially at night or first thing in the morning). This typically occurs following activities which require strong or repetitive contraction of the calf muscles, such as running (especially uphill) or during sports involving running, jumping or hopping. The pain associated with this condition may also warm up with activity in the initial stages of the condition. As the condition progresses, patients may experience symptoms that increase during activity and affect performance. Pain may also increase when performing a calf stretch or heel raise (i.e. rising up onto tip toes). In severe cases, patients may walk with a limp, have difficulty putting their heel down, or be unable to weight bear on the affected leg. Pain may also increase on firmly touching the affected region and occasionally a bony lump may be palpable or visible at the back of the heel. This condition typically presents gradually overtime and can affect either one or both lower limbs.

Diagnosis

All medical diagnosis should be made by taking a full history, examining the patient then performing investigations. The problem usually occurs in boys who are going through or have just gone through a growth spurt; one or both heels may be affected. Initially the pain may be intermittent occurring only during or after exercise. As the problem gets worse, pain may be present most of the time. There may be swelling over the back of the heel and this area is painful if touched or knocked. On examination the patient often has flat feet, very tight legs muscles especially the gastrocnemius.

Non Surgical Treatment

Occasionally, an orthotic may need to be prescribed for temporary or long-term correction of their foot biomechanics (eg flat feet or high arches). During the acute phase of Sever's disease a small heel rise or shock-absorbing heel cup placed under the heel pad of your child's foot may help to ease the symptoms. Your podiatrist or physiotherapist can assess your child's arch and guide you in the best management of your child's condition. We recommend that your child should never go barefooted during the painful stages of Sever's disease.

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