What Exactly Is Calcaneal Apophysitis?

Overview


Sever?s disease (also known as calcaneal apophysitis) is a type of bone injury in which the growth plate in the lower back of the heel, where the Achilles tendon (the heel cord that attaches to the growth plate) attaches, becomes inflamed and causes pain. Sever?s disease is the most common cause of heel pain in children, especially those who exercise or play sports on a regular basis.


Causes


The usual cause is directly related to overuse of the bone and tendons in the heel. This can come from playing sports or anything that involves a lot of heel movement. It can be associated with starting a new sport, or the start of a new season, or too much weight bearing on the heel. Also, excessive traction could cause this, since the bones and tendons are still developing. Many children who over pronate their feet exhibit symptoms and in most patients, it usually involves both heels.


Symptoms


Symptoms include complaints of pain or tenderness in the heel (or heels), discomfort when heel is squeezed, limping, and more severe pain after walking, running or playing sports. Sever?s disease is directly related to overuse of the bone and tendons in the heel. This can come from playing sports or anything that involves lots of heel movements and hard shoes such as cleats. It can be associated with starting a new sport, or the start of a new season. It occurs more commonly in children who pronate (feet roll inward), and involves both heels in more than half of patients.


Diagnosis


Sever disease is most often diagnosed clinically, and radiographic evaluation is believed to be unnecessary by many physicians, but if a diagnosis of calcaneal apophysitis is made without obtaining radiographs, a lesion requiring more aggressive treatment could be missed. Foot radiographs are usually normal and the radiologic identification of calcaneal apophysitis without the absence of clinical information was not reliable.


Non Surgical Treatment


In general, management is along the normal lines for sports injuries. Simply telling an individual to give up his or her chosen sport is not satisfactory (this may be a very talented young footballer who hopes to become a professional). Explain to the child and parent that this is an overuse injury, common in the growing child. It has a good prognosis but it is necessary to ease back on training for a while to let it recover. Offer to talk to the coach. If the parent and coach are one and the same, beware that the child is being 'pushed' too hard. During abstinence from normal training, cardiovascular fitness can be maintained by non-weight-bearing exercise such as swimming or cycling.


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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