Calcaneal Apophysitis In Youngsters

Overview

Sever’s disease is a condition characterized by pain in one or both heels with walking. The pain is caused by shortening of the heel-cord. It usually affects children between the ages of 10 and 13 years old. During this phase of life, growth of the bone is taking place at a faster rate than the tendons. Sever’s disease is also called calcaneal apophysitis.

Causes

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 a lot of heel movement. It can be associated with starting a new sport, or the start of a new season. Children who are going through adolescence are also at risk of getting it because the heel bone grows quicker than the leg. Too much weight bearing on the heel can also cause it, as can excessive traction since the bones and tendons are still developing. It occurs more commonly in children who over-pronate, and involves both heels in more than half of patients.

Symptoms

The most obvious sign of Sever’s disease is pain or tenderness in one or both heels, usually at the back. The pain also might extend to the sides and bottom of the heel, ending near the arch of the foot. A child also may have these related problems, swelling and redness in the heel, difficulty walking, discomfort or stiffness in the feet upon awaking, discomfort when the heel is squeezed on both sides, an unusual walk, such as walking with a limp or on tiptoes to avoid putting pressure on the heel. Symptoms are usually worse during or after activity and get better with rest.

Diagnosis

Sever’s disease is based on the symptoms reported. To confirm the diagnosis, the clinician will examine the heels and ask about the child’s activity level and participation in sports. They may also squeeze the back part of the heel from both sides at the same time to see if doing so causes pain and also ask the child to stand on tiptoes to see if that position causes pain. There may be tightness in the calf muscle, which contributes to tension on the heel. Symptoms are usually worse during or after activity and get better with rest. X-rays generally are not that helpful in diagnosing Sever’s disease, but they may be ordered to rule out other problems, such as fractures. Sever’s disease cannot be seen on an X-ray.

Non Surgical Treatment

The initial treatment is rest, relieve the pain and treat the underlying cause. The foot and ankle should be rested so that the apophysis it is not being continually ?injured?. A small heel (sorbothane heel insert) raise can used to raise the heel and take the stretch off the Achilles tendon. It may be sufficient to stop your child playing sport but some children require a short period of bed or couch rest. Some children find resting very difficult and require the use of braces or plasters or boots to slow them down. Using crutches is advised. Severs is usually caused by tight muscles. A stretching program should be followed usually supervised by a physiotherapist. The stretching program may need to be undertaken up to 5 times a day. If flat feet are a problems orthotics (insoles) should be used. The pain should be controlled by rest (limiting activity) and ice (icing the painful area 3-4 times a day – making sure the skin is not burnt), Simple pain killers can be used such as paracetamol as well as anti-inflammatory tablets and cream. Severs disease usually goes away with time. When your child stops growing, the pain and swelling should go away because the growing (weak) area fuses and becomes solid bone which is very strong.

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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