Does Calcaneal Apophysitis Always Require Surgical Treatments?

Overview

Sever?s Disease is one of the most common overuse sports injuries in the U.S. It may not receive the street cred that plantar fasciitis gets, but this painful condition affecting the heel routinely affects child athletes, usually from eight to thirteen years of age, right when the bones are coming together. The pounding force causes inflammation between the bones, according to YNN, as well as injury to the growth plates themselves. While the ?disease? classification may sound scary, it?s actually a quite normal overuse sports injury that does not typically persist into adulthood.

Causes

Heel pain is very common in children due to the fact they are cnstantly growing. In most children, the heel bone (the calcaneus) is not fully developed until the age of 14 or older. Until then, new bone is forming at the growth plate of the foot (the apophysis, located at the back of the heel), an area which is softer than others due to its role in accommodating the growth. Repetitive stress on the growth plate due to walking, running and sports causes inflammation in the heel area. Because the heel's growth plate is sensitive, repeated running and pounding on hard surfaces can result in pediatric heel pain. Children and adolescents who take part in a lot of sport are especially vulnerable. Over-pronation (fallen arches and rolling inwards of the feet) will increase the impact on the growth plate and is therefore a significant cause and a major contributing factor to heel pain in children.

Symptoms

Most children with Sever's complain of pain in the heel that occurs during or after activity (typically running or jumping) and is usually relieved by rest. The pain may be worse when wearing cleats. Sixty percent of children's with Sever's report experiencing pain in both heels.

Diagnosis

The x-ray appearance usually shows the apophysis to be divided into multiple parts. Sometimes a series of small fragments is noted. Asymptomatic heels may also show x-ray findings of resporption, fragmentation and increased density. But they occur much less often in the normal foot. Pulling or ?traction? of the Achilles tendon on the unossified growth plate is a likely contributing factor to Sever?s disease. Excessive pronation and a tight Achilles and limited dorsiflexion may also contribute to the development of this condition.

Non Surgical Treatment

The immediate goal of treatment is pain relief. Because symptoms generally worsen with activity, the main treatment for Sever's disease is rest, which helps to relieve pressure on the heel bone, decreasing swelling and reducing pain. As directed by the doctor, a child should cut down on or avoid all activities that cause pain until all symptoms are gone, especially running barefoot or on hard surfaces because hard impact on the feet can worsen pain and inflammation. The child might be able to do things that do not put pressure on the heel, such as swimming and biking, but check with a doctor first.

Exercise

For children with Sever's disease, it is important to habitually perform exercises to stretch the hamstrings, calf muscles, and the tendons on the back of the leg. Stretching should be performed 2-3 times a day. Each stretch should be performed for 20 seconds, and both legs should be stretched, even if the pain is only in one heel. Heel cups or an inner shoe heel lifts are often recommended for patient suffering from Sever's disease. Wearing running shoes with built in heel cups can also decrease the symptoms because they can help soften the impact on the heel when walking, running, or standing.

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