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What Causes Severs Disease?

Overview

Sever?s disease, or calcaneal apophysitis, is a common cause of heel pain in patients whose bones are still growing; however, it is not really a disease. The pain is caused by stress at the point where the Achilles tendon meets tissue called the plantar fascia on the growth plate (apophysis) of the heel bone (calcaneus).

Sever's affects boys more often than girls. Boys are most often affected at age 12, and girls at age 9, though Sever's is typically seen in children and adolescents between the ages of 7 and 15.

Causes

Heel pain can also be caused by a stress fracture in the heel, bursitis, tendonitis, bone cysts, and rheumatologic disorders. If the athlete is not active in impact sports or is not between age 9 and 13 years, other conditions should be considered.

Symptoms

Unilateral or bilateral heel pain. Heel pain during physical exercise, especially activities that require running or jumping or are high impact. Pain is often worse after exercise. A tender swelling or bulge on the heel that is painful on touch. Limping. Calf muscle stiffness first thing in the morning.

Diagnosis

Sever condition is diagnosed by detecting the characteristic symptoms and signs above in the older children, particularly boys between 8 and 15 years of age. Sometimes X-ray testing can be helpful as it can occasionally demonstrate irregularity of the calcaneus bone at the point where the Achilles tendon attaches.

Non Surgical Treatment

Cold packs: Apply ice or cold packs to the back of the heels for around 15 minutes after any physical activity, including walking.

Shoe inserts: Small heel inserts worn inside the shoes can take some of the traction pressure off the Achilles tendons. This will only be required in the short term.

Medication: Pain-relieving medication may help in extreme cases, but should always be combined with other treatment and following consultation with your doctor).

Anti-inflammatory creams: Also an effective management tool.

Splinting or casting: In severe cases, it may be necessary to immobilise the lower leg using a splint or cast, but this is rare.

Time: Generally the pain will ease in one to two weeks, although there may be flare-ups from time to time.

Correction of any biomechanical issues: A physiotherapist can identify and discuss any biomechanical issues that may cause or worsen the condition.

Education: Education on how to self-manage the symptoms and flare-ups of Sever?s disease is an essential part of the treatment.

Recovery

One of the most important things to know about Sever's disease is that, with proper care, the condition usually goes away within 2 weeks to 2 months and does not cause any problems later in life. The sooner Sever's disease is addressed, the quicker recovery is. Most kids can return to physical activity without any trouble once the pain and other symptoms go away. Although Sever's disease generally heals quickly, it can recur if long-term measures are not taken to protect the heel during a child's growing years. One of the most important is to make sure that kids wear proper shoes. Good quality, well-fitting shoes with shock-absorbent (padded) soles help to reduce pressure on the heel. The doctor may also recommend shoes with open backs, such as sandals or clogs, that do not rub on the back of the heel. Shoes that are heavy or have high heels should be avoided. Other preventive measures include continued stretching exercises and icing of the affected heel after activity.

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