Living With Calcaneal Apophysitis

Overview

Sever?s disease, also referred to as calcaneal apophysitis, is an injury in the growth plate of the lower part of the heel bone where the Achilles tendon attaches to the bone. Sever?s disease is a common condition affecting children between the ages of 8 and 15 that participate in sports or are particularly active. This condition is believed to be caused by repeated trauma to the heel, weakening its internal structure. Typically occurring in adolescence, Sever?s disease causes painful inflammation of the growth plate. This condition can affect any child, however there is a higher probability of its occurrence if the child experiences pronation, has flat or high arches, short leg syndrome and/or is overweight.

Causes

There are usually two root causes of Sever?s disease that we?ve found that effect young athletes. Arches are not supported causing a dysfunctional run, jump, and landing. The calves (gastrocnemius and soleus muscles) are overworked, tight, and do not allow proper movement of foot which puts extreme pressure on the Achilles? tendon, in turn irritating the growth plate in the heel.

Symptoms

Sever condition causes pain at the back of the heel. The pain is increased with plantar flexion of the ankle (pushing down with the foot as if stepping on the gas), particularly against resistance. Sever condition also causes tenderness and swelling in the area of the pain.

Diagnosis

You may have pain when your doctor squeezes your heel bone. You may have pain when asked to stand or walk on your toes or on your heels. You may have pain in your heel when your doctor stretches your calf muscles. Your doctor may order x-rays of the injured foot to show an active growth plate.

Non Surgical Treatment

Initially, Sever?s Disease is treated with rest, anti-inflammatory medication and softer shoes. Ice followed by heat is a common practice and heel cup orthotics have worked wonders for our young patients in the past. It can take anywhere from a few weeks to a year for these growth plates to naturally close – at which point Sever?s Disease disappears. Even though the condition does heal on its own, athletes are encouraged to seek treatment, rather than push through the pain. Simply ?dealing with it? and continuing to play sports despite the injury could lead to an impaired gait, a strained hip or a knee injury. Stretches to strengthen the leg muscles, leg compression wraps and over-the-counter acetaminophen or ibuprofen are also recommended treatments. In very rare cases, a podiatrist may recommend wearing a cast for two to twelve weeks.

Surgical Treatment

The surgeon may select one or more of the following options to treat calcaneal apophysitis. Reduce activity. The child needs to reduce or stop any activity that causes pain. Support the heel. Temporary shoe inserts or custom orthotic devices may provide support for the heel. Medications. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, help reduce the pain and inflammation. Physical therapy. Stretching or physical therapy modalities are sometimes used to promote healing of the inflamed issue. Immobilization. In some severe cases of pediatric heel pain, a cast may be used to promote healing while keeping the foot and ankle totally immobile. Often heel pain in children returns after it has been treated because the heel bone is still growing. Recurrence of heel pain may be a sign of calcaneal apophysitis, or it may indicate a different problem. If your child has a repeat bout of heel pain, be sure to make an appointment with your foot and ankle surgeon.

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