Calcaneal Apophysitis Therapy

Overview

Sever's disease is a common cause of heel pain, particularly in the young and physically active. During puberty the calcaneus consist of two areas of bone known as ossification centres. These two areas are divided by an area of cartilage known as the calcaneal apophysitis. See x-ray (right) for two ossification centres of heel. The Achilles tendon attaches the triceps surae (calf muscles) to the calcaneus (heel bone). As a child grows the calcaneus grow faster than the surrounding soft tissue, which means the Achilles tendon is pulled uncomfortably tight. This increase in tensile load can cause inflammation and irritation of the calcaneal apophysis (growth plate) which is known as Sever's Disease. The pain is exacerbated by physical activities, especially ones involving running or jumping. Sever's disease most commonly affects boys aged 12 to 14 years and girls aged 10 to 12 years, which corresponds with the early growth spurts of puberty.

Causes

The spontaneous development of pain in children generally indicates some form of injury to the growth plate of a growing bone. This can occur without a specific memorable event. When pain occurs in the heel of a child the most likely cause is due to injury of the growth plate in the heel bone. This is called Sever's disease. A condition that may mimic Seiver's disease is Achilles tendonitis. Achilles tendonitis is inflammation of the tendon attached to the back of the heel. A tight Achilles tendon may contribute to Sever's disease by pulling excessively on the growth plate of the heel bone. It is frequently seen in the active soccer, football or baseball player. Sport shoes with cleats seem to aggravate the condition. It is believed that the condition is due to an underlying mechanical problem with the way the foot functions.

Symptoms

The main symptom of sever's disease is pain and tenderness at the back of the heel which is made worse with physical activity. Tenderness will be felt especially if you press in or give the back of the heel a squeeze from the sides. There may be a lump over the painful area. Another sign is tight calf muscles resulting with reduced range of motion at the ankle. Pain may go away after a period of rest from sporting activities only to return when the young person goes back to training.

Diagnosis

A Podiatrist can easily evaluate your child?s feet, to identify if a problem exists. Through testing the muscular flexibility. If there is a problem, a treatment plan can be create to address the issue. At the initial treatment to control movement or to support the area we may use temporary padding and strapping and depending on how successful the treatment is, a long-term treatment plan will be arranged. This long-term treatment plan may or may not involve heel raises, foot supports, muscle strengthening and or stretching.

Non Surgical Treatment

The good news is that the condition doesn?t cause any long-term foot problems. Symptoms typically go away after a few months. The best treatment is simply rest. Your child will need to stop or cut down on sports until the pain gets better. When she's well enough to return to her sport, have her build up her playing time gradually. Your doctor may also recommend ice packs or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen or naproxen, to relieve the pain. Supportive shoes and inserts that reduce stress on the heel bone. These can help if your child has another foot problem that aggravates Sever?s disease, such as flat feet or high arches. Stretching and strengthening exercises, perhaps with the help of a physical therapist. In severe cases, your child may need a cast so her heel is forced to rest.

Prevention

The old adage, "An once of prevention is worth a pound of cure," is most appropriate when trying to prevent the effects of Sever's Disease. If this condition is not prevented, or treated in its earliest stages, it may cause the child to stop certain sports activities until the growth plate has fused and matured (this usually occurs around the age of 16 years old). Long Term Treatment and Prevention must be directed towards protecting the growth plate at the back of the heel during a child's growing years. Being aware of the following best does this. If the child is very active in sports that require repetitive and exertive activities, then the parents must be vigilant when it comes to the child's gait, watching to see if he or she is limping, walking on their toes, or complaining of heel pain when weight-bearing. These may be "early warning signs" of Sever's Disease. Along with these signs, if your child has any of the Predisposing Hereditary Factors listed above, the chances of Sever's Disease occurring increased.

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