What Is Calcaneal Apophysitis?

Overview

Severs Disease is a common cause of heel pain in children. It is seen most commonly in children aged 5 - 11 years old. Children with Severs Disease will complain of heel pain that increases with activity. The pain is often relieved by rest, although some children will continue to have pain with regular activities, such as walking. Severs Disease has much in common with Osgood-Schlatter Disease. Both are described as being a traction apophysitis.

Causes

Mechanically, the heel takes a beating. And the apophyseal bone is located near the point of impact for the heel bone at heel strike and with most weight bearing activities. This includes running, jumping and walking. Heavy impact activities like soccer, football and gymnastics are commonly associated with this problem. In addition to this, there is traction on this apophyseal bone and the associated physeal line of growth cartilage. This traction on the apopysis (island of bone) along with the impact of weight bearing activities can lead to inflammation and pain. Tight Achilles and calf muscles also can contribute to this problem, and why stretching is discussed later.

Symptoms

Sever?s disease is more common in boys. They tend to have later growth spurts and typically get the condition between the ages of 10 and 15. In girls, it usually happens between 8 and 13. Symptoms can include pain, swelling, or redness in one or both heels, tenderness and tightness in the back of the heel that feels worse when the area is squeezed. Heel pain that gets worse after running or jumping, and feels better after rest. The pain may be especially bad at the beginning of a sports season or when wearing hard, stiff shoes like soccer cleats. Trouble walking. Walking or running with a limp or on tip toes.

Diagnosis

A physical exam of the heel will show tenderness over the back of the heel but not in the Achilles tendon or plantar fascia. There may be tightness in the calf muscle, which contributes to tension on the heel. The tendons in the heel get stretched more in patients with flat feet. There is greater impact force on the heels of athletes with a high-arched, rigid foot.

Non Surgical Treatment

A doctor, sports therapist or physiotherapist can apply a plaster cast or boot if the child is in severe pain. This may be worn for a few days or even weeks and should give relief of pain for a while. Carry out a full biomechanical assessment. This may help to determine if any foot biomechanics issues are contributing to the condition. Orthotics or insoles can be prescribed to help correct over pronation or other biomechanics issues. Prescribe anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen to reduce pain and inflammation. This will not be prescribed if asthma the child has asthma. In persistent cases X-rays may be taken but this is not usual. A doctor, sports therapist or physiotherapist will NOT give a steroid injection or operate as these are not suitable treatment options. The condition will usually settle within 6 months, although it can persist for longer.
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