Calcaneal Apophysitis In Children

Overview

Severs disease is by far the most common cause of heel pain in young children, the condition commonly occurs in kids around the age of 10-15 years. Severs is a traction apophysitis in which inflammation of the calcaneal apophysis (growth plate) occurs as a result of overuse or micro trauma. As mentioned severs disease is caused by micro trauma and over use, this can include excessive foot pronation (foot rolling in), tight calf muscles, increase in sporting activities and inappropriate footwear. These all put extra sheering forces on the growth plate leading to aggravation and resultant pain. Signs and symptoms of this include pain on squeezing of the heel, absence of swelling and redness, child describing pain as a dull ache, limping and pain with increased activity.

Causes

The cause of the pain in Severs disease is thought to be the tractional forces applied to the growth plate of the heel bone by the Achilles tendon at the rear of the heel bone and the plantar fascia just beneath the heel bone. This pulling force by the Achilles tendon on the growth plate is often aggravated by tight calf muscles and excessively pronated feet (i.e. feet that ?roll in? too far).

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

Children or adolescents who are experiencing pain and discomfort in their feet should be evaluated by a physician. In some cases, no imaging tests are needed to diagnose Sever?s disease. A podiatrist or other healthcare professional may choose to order an x-ray or imaging study, however, to ensure that there is no other cause for the pain, such as a fracture. Sever?s disease will not show any findings on an x-ray because it affects cartilage.

Non Surgical Treatment

Initially, treatment will consist of resting from activity, ice and anti-inflammatory medications to reduce the pain. Your physiotherapist may also use a variety of pain reducing techniques such as soft tissue massage or joint mobilisations. They may recommend taping to unload the area of pain, heel cups or wedge inserts into the bottom of your shoe. Also in the initial phase we may also refer you to podiatry for orthotics and/or further footwear recommendations. It is also ideal in the first instance to start stretching your calf muscles and achilles. This initial phase typically lasts for 1-2 weeks. During this time your physiotherapist will guide you on appropriate levels of activity- they may recommend you rest from impact type activities during this phase, and will guide you on the best program to return to your sport without any further injury.

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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