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What Is Calcaneal Apophysitis?

Overview

Sever's disease is a condition characterized by pain in one or both heels with walking. The pain is caused by shortening of the heel-cord. It usually affects children between the ages of 10 and 13 years old. During this phase of life, growth of the bone is taking place at a faster rate than the tendons. Sever's disease is also called calcaneal apophysitis.

Causes

Sever's Disease is a repetitive strain injury caused by the following. High impact injury activities and sport like netball, football, soccer, hockey, basketball, running, jumping and tennis. Tight calf muscles. Poor mechanics, structure and function of the foot. Excessive pronation. Rapid growth spurt. The above causes tension, inflammation and pain where the Achilles tendon inserts onto the calcaneus (Back/bottom surface of the heel bone). It is important that this problem is treated and monitored until the growth plate ossifies in the heel. This could occur between the ages of 14 and 16 years of age. In extreme cases the growth plate can become separated from the calcaneus.

Symptoms

The symptoms of Sever?s Disease may vary but usually include generalised pain and discomfort around the back of the heel. Can be one sided or both sides. Starts after child starts a new sport season. May cause child to limp due to pain. Increases with weight bearing activity. Heel becomes red and can be swollen. X-rays are usually inconclusive and simply show the growth plate.

Diagnosis

The doctor may order an x-ray because x-rays can confirm how mature the growth center is and if there are other sources of heel pain, such as a stress fracture or bone cyst. However, x-rays are not necessary to diagnose Sever?s disease, and it is not possible to make the diagnosis based on the x-ray alone.

Non Surgical Treatment

Stretching programs. Strengthening exercises. Exercise and training modification. Orthotic therapy. In rare cases, where fragmentation of the apophysis exists and pain fails to subside with traditional treatments then immobilization of the foot and ankle with a short leg pneumatic walker(walking cast) is indicated.

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.