What Exactly Is Calcaneal Apophysitis?

Overview

Sever?s disease is a painful condition of the heel affecting children, usually at the beginning of the growth spurt in early puberty. It is caused by inflammation at the growth plate at the back of the heel, adjacent to the Achilles tendon attachment. This is one of the most common causes of heel pain in school-aged children. Physically active children aged between eight and fourteen years old are most at risk of developing pain from Sever?s disease. It is common among children involved in soccer, little athletics, gymnastics, basketball and netball but can affect children involved in any running or jumping activity. Boys seem to be more commonly affected than girls.

Causes

There are a number of possible causes for a child's heel pain. Because diagnosis can be challenging, a foot and ankle surgeon is best qualified to determine the underlying cause of the pain and develop an effective treatment plan. Sever's disease, also known as calcaneal apophysitis, is by far the most common cause of heel pain in children. Other causes of heel pain include tendo-achilles bursitis, other overuse injuries, and fractures.

Symptoms

Sever condition causes pain at the back of the heel. The pain is increased with plantar flexion of the ankle (pushing down with the foot as if stepping on the gas), particularly against resistance. Sever condition also causes tenderness and swelling in the area of the pain.

Diagnosis

X-rays are normal in Sever's disease, but your doctor will probably get X-rays to rule out other problems. Treatment consists of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications and use of a heel lift to relieve tension on the calcaneal apophysis. In more severe cases, phycical therapy consisting of modalities to relieve the pain, and stretching exercises may be helpful. In extreme cases, castings have been used.

Non Surgical Treatment

Your child may need to change or stop doing the activities that cause pain until the growth plate heals. Your child needs to wear shoes with good padding in the heels and good arch support. Special shoes or shoe inserts may help. Pain from Sever's disease may last weeks to months. The pain may come back if your child returns to sports or strenuous activities too soon.

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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