What Are The Causes Of Calcaneal Apophysitis?

Overview

When recurring heel pain occurs in children, it is usually due to Sever's Disease, while adult heel pain is usually due to heel spurs, plantar fasciitis, or retrocalcaneal bursitis (Haglund's Deformity). Calcaneus is the anatomical name of the heel bone. Sever's Disease or Calcaneal Apophysitis is an inflammation of the growth plate located at the posterior aspect (back) of the heel.

Causes

During the growth spurt of early puberty, the heel bone sometimes grows faster than the leg muscles and tendons. This can cause the muscles and tendons to become very tight and overstretched, making the heel less flexible and putting pressure on the growth plate. The Achilles tendon is the strongest tendon that attaches to the growth plate in the heel. Over time, repeated stress, from physical activities and sports, on the Achilles tendon damages the growth plate, causing the swelling, tenderness, and pain of Sever's disease.

Symptoms

Symptoms include Heel Pain. Pain at the back of the heels when walking or running. Possibly a lump at the back of the heel, although this might be minimal. Pain and tenderness at the back of the heels, especially if you press on it, or give it a squeeze from the sides. Tight calf muscles resulting in reduced ankle range of motion.

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

If the problem is bad enough, it is important to totally rest the symptomatic foot. Take a break from sport activity until the pain has significant improvement. Severe cases will need to be treated with a cast boot. Anti-inflammatory treatments include Icing, Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medicine as recommended by your pediatrician or podiatrist. Shock absorption and support. Don't go barefoot at home, wear some type of good sandal or shoe. A significant and/or chronic case should be treated with prescription orthotics. This addresses mechanical problems that cause this problem, Using an over-the-counter heel cushion inside of the shoe, Athletic foot taping, Stretching. Runners stretch to stretch out the calf muscle. A night splint will also help. Severe or chronic cases respond best to prescription orthotics with specific modifications for this problem. May require a night splint. Daytime braces that may also help.

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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