What Is Calcaneal Apophysitis?

Overview

Sever's disease is a common cause of heel pain in adolescence. Developing, physically active ?kids? are more prone to Sever's. During puberty the calcaneus consist of two developing sites of bone known as ossification centres. These two areas are seperated by an area of cartilage known as the calcaneal apophysis. The Achilles tendon attaches the triceps surae (calf muscles) to the calcaneus (heel bone). As a child grows the calcaneus grows faster than the surrounding soft tissue, which means the Achilles tendon is pulled uncomfortably tight. This increase in strain causes inflammation and irritation of the calcaneal apophysis (growth plate) which is known as Sever's Disease. The pain is exacerbated by physical activities, especially ones involving running or jumping. Sever's disease most commonly affects boys aged 12 to 14 years and girls aged 10 to 12 years, which corresponds with the early growth spurts of puberty.

Causes

The large calf muscles attach to the heel via a large tendon called the Achilles tendon (See image below). The function of this tendon is to transmit forces produced by the calf muscles to the heel bone. In children, the portion of the heel bone into which the Achilles tendon inserts is separated from the bulk of the heel bone by a growth plate. This growth plate enables bone growth to occur. However, it also represents a site of weakness in the bone. Forcible and repeated contraction of the calf muscles can injure the growth plate. This commonly occurs during a period of rapid growth where the muscles and tendons become tighter as the bones grow. This leads to increased pulling of the calf muscles and Achilles tendon on the heel bone and growth plate.

Symptoms

The most common symptoms of Sever?s involves pain or tenderness in one or both heels. This pain usually occurs at the back of the heel, but can also extend to the sides and bottom of the heel. A child with Sever?s may also have these common problems, Heel pain with limping, especially after running. Difficulty walking, Discomfort or stiffness in the feet upon awaking. Swelling and redness in the heel, Symptoms are usually worse during or after activity and get better with rest.

Diagnosis

Sever?s disease can be diagnosed based on the symptoms your child has. Your child?s doctor will conduct a physical examination by squeezing different parts of your child?s foot to see if they cause any pain. An X-ray may be used to rule out other problems, such as a broken bone or fracture.

Non Surgical Treatment

Initially, treatment will consist of resting from activity, ice and anti-inflammatory medications to reduce the pain. Your physiotherapist may also use a variety of pain reducing techniques such as soft tissue massage or joint mobilisations. They may recommend taping to unload the area of pain, heel cups or wedge inserts into the bottom of your shoe. Also in the initial phase we may also refer you to podiatry for orthotics and/or further footwear recommendations. It is also ideal in the first instance to start stretching your calf muscles and achilles. This initial phase typically lasts for 1-2 weeks. During this time your physiotherapist will guide you on appropriate levels of activity- they may recommend you rest from impact type activities during this phase, and will guide you on the best program to return to your sport without any further injury.

Recovery

With proper care, your child should feel better within 2 weeks to 2 months. Your child can start playing sports again only when the heel pain is gone. Your doctor will let you know when physical activity is safe.

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