Does Calcaneal Apophysitis Necessitate Surgical Treatments?

Overview

Sever?s disease, also referred to as calcaneal apophysitis, is an injury in the growth plate of the lower part of the heel bone where the Achilles tendon attaches to the bone. Sever?s disease is a common condition affecting children between the ages of 8 and 15 that participate in sports or are particularly active. This condition is believed to be caused by repeated trauma to the heel, weakening its internal structure. Typically occurring in adolescence, Sever?s disease causes painful inflammation of the growth plate. This condition can affect any child, however there is a higher probability of its occurrence if the child experiences pronation, has flat or high arches, short leg syndrome and/or is overweight.

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

Unilateral or bilateral heel pain. Heel pain during physical exercise, especially activities that require running or jumping. Increased pain level after exercise. A tender swelling or bulge on the heel that is painful on touch. Limping. Calf muscle stiffness first thing in the morning.

Diagnosis

Your podiatrist will take a comprehensive medical history and perform a physical examination including a gait analysis. The assessment will include foot posture assessment, joint flexibility (or range of motion), biomechanical assessment of the foot, ankle and leg, foot and leg muscle strength testing, footwear assessment, school shoes and athletic footwear, gait analysis, to look for abnormalities in the way the feet move during gait, Pain provocation tests eg calcaneal squeeze test. X-rays are not usually required to diagnose Sever?s disease.

Non Surgical Treatment

If your child lets you know that his heels are hurting, schedule a doctor's appointment. Your family doctor may or may not refer you to a podiatrist. Treatment for Sever's Disease typically consists of one or more of the following steps. Reducing physical activity. Because Sever's Disease appears to be most common in athletic children, reducing exercise periods will relieve pressure on the heel bones, thereby reducing pain. Your doctor may recommend that your child take a complete break from athletic activity for a set amount of time. Icing the heel bones can help to lower both inflammation and pain levels. Use a cold pack or wrap ice in a towel and apply it to the heels. A new exercise regimen that involves simple stretches designed to lengthen the calf muscles and tendons. Your doctor may prescribe the use of orthotic shoe inserts that will assist your child in maintaining a good level of physical activity. HTP Heel Seats may be an excellent option and have been purchased by many parents as an effective aide for children suffering from Sever's Disease. Read about HTP Heel Seats here and ask your doctor if they are right for your child's unique case. In extreme cases, a doctor may recommend a plaster cast or boot, but typically only if other less cumbersome solutions fail to reduce pain. Some doctors may prescribe anti-inflammatory medications. Never give these to a child yourself, without first seeking a doctor's advice. Some medications carry the risk of serious side effects for children. Only give medications if specifically prescribed your child's physician.

Prevention

Sever?s disease may be prevented by maintaining good flexibility while your child is growing. The stretching exercises mentioned here can lower your child?s risk for injuries during the growth spurt. Good-quality shoes with firm support and a shock-absorbent sole will help. Your child should avoid excessive running on hard surfaces. If your child has already recovered from Sever?s disease, stretching and putting ice on the heel after activity will help keep your child from getting this condition again.

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