The calcaneal apophysis is a growth center where the Achilles tendon and the plantar fascia attach to the heel. It first appears in children aged 7 to 8 years. By ages 12 to 14 years the growth center matures and fuses to the heel bone. Injuries can occur from excessive tension on the Achilles tendon and the plantar fascia, or from direct impact on the heel. Excessive stress on this growth center can cause irritation of the heel, also called Sever?s disease.
The cause of the pain in Severs disease is thought to be the tractional forces applied to the growth plate of the heel bone by the Achilles tendon at the rear of the heel bone and the plantar fascia just beneath the heel bone. This pulling force by the Achilles tendon on the growth plate is often aggravated by tight calf muscles and excessively pronated feet (i.e. feet that ?roll in? too far).
Severs causes swelling, pain and tenderness over the back of the heel. Your child may walk with a limp. 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. The swelling increases and is painful when touched or knocked. It commonly affects boys who are having a growth spurt during their pre-teen or teenage years. One or both knees may be affected.
This condition is self limiting, it will go away when the two parts of bony growth join together, this is natural. Unfortunately, Sever’s disease can be very painful and limit sport activity of the child while waiting for it to go away, so treatment is often advised to help relieve it. In a few cases of Sever’s disease, the treatment is not successful and these children will be restricted in their activity levels until the two growth areas join, usually around the age of 16 years. There are no known long term complications associated with Sever’s disease.
Non Surgical Treatment
The primary method of treating Sever?s disease is taking time off from sports and other physical activities to alleviate the pressure on the heel bone. During the healing period, your child?s doctor may also recommend physical therapy or any type of exercise that involves stretching and strengthen leg muscles and tendons. Wrapping ice in a towel and placing it under the child?s heel will also help to alleviate and reduce pain and swelling.
Exercises that help to stretch the calf muscles and hamstrings are effective at treating Sever’s disease. An exercise known as foot curling, in which the foot is pointed away from the body, then curled toward the body in order to help stretch the muscles, has also proven to be very effective at treating Sever’s disease. The curling exercise should be done in sets of 10 or 20 repetitions, and repeated several times throughout the day.