What Exactly Is Calcaneal Apophysitis?

Overview

Although the name might sound pretty frightening, Sever’s disease is really a common heel injury that occurs in kids. It can be painful, but is only temporary and has no long-term effects. Calcaneal apophysitis is a painful inflammation of the heel?s growth plate. It typically affects children between the ages of 8 and 14 years old, because the heel bone (calcaneus) is not fully developed until at least age 14. Until then, new bone is forming at the growth plate (physis), a weak area located at the back of the heel. When there is too much repetitive stress on the growth plate, inflammation can develop. Calcaneal apophysitis is also called Sever?s disease, although it is not a true ?disease.? It is the most common cause of heel pain in children, and can occur in one or both feet. Heel pain in children differs from the most common type of heel pain experienced by adults. While heel pain in adults usually subsides after a period of walking, pediatric heel pain generally doesn?t improve in this manner. In fact, walking typically makes the pain worse.

Causes

Severs disease arises due to a traction of the Achilles Tendon from the heel bone or from excessive impact forces to the area during peak growing periods. Most children will present with one or many of the following backgrounds. Recent periods of rapid growth/changes of body mass/strength. Overuse, Multiple sporting clubs, multiple sports, high intensity of training. Poor footwear (insufficient heel height). Training errors. Tight surrounding muscles. Osseous growth proceeds that of the soft tissue. Poor biomechanics and posture (excessive pronation/flat feet).

Symptoms

Pain in the lower calf and heel area which may be worse when applying pressure either side. Pain worse on activity especially those involving running or jumping. In severe cases this may cause the child to limp when walking. One or both heels affected.

Diagnosis

Radiography. Most of the time radiographs are not helpful because the calcaneal apophysis is frequently fragmented and dense in normal children. But they can be used to exclude other traumas. Ultrasonography. could show the fragmentation of secondary nucleus of ossification of the calcaneus in severs?s disease. This is a safe diagnostic tool since there is no radiation. This diagnostic tool can also be used to exclude Achilles tendinitis and/or retrocalcaneal bursitis.

Non Surgical Treatment

Sever?s disease is a self-limiting problem, because as your child grows the growth plate will eventually fuse with the main body of the heel bone. This happens at about 14 -15 years of age. Once foot growth is complete and the growth plate has fused, the symptoms will resolve. In the meantime, treatment by your Podiatrist will help your child return to normal sporting activities without heel pain slowing him/her down.

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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