Living With Calcaneal Apophysitis

Overview

A common cause of heel pain in growing adolescents, particularly those that are actively participating in sport is a condition known as Severs disease. While the suggestion of a ?disease? to your child may conjure up images of a life threatening disorder crippling your child, Severs disease is not nearly so sinister and can be easily fixed.

Causes

Sever's disease can result from standing too long, which puts constant pressure on the heel. Poor-fitting shoes can contribute to the condition by not providing enough support or padding for the feet or by rubbing against the back of the heel. Although Sever's disease can occur in any child, these conditions increase the chances of it happening. Pronated foot (a foot that rolls in at the ankle when walking), which causes tightness and twisting of the Achilles tendon, thus increasing its pull on the heel's growth plate. Flat or high arch, which affects the angle of the heel within the foot, causing tightness and shortening of the Achilles tendon. Short leg syndrome (one leg is shorter than the other), which causes the foot on the short leg to bend downward to reach the ground, pulling on the Achilles tendon. Overweight or obesity, which puts weight-related pressure on the growth plate.

Symptoms

If your child has any of the following symptoms, call your pediatrician for an evaluation. Heel pain that begins after starting a new sports season or a new sport. Walking with a limp or on tiptoes. Pain that increases with running or jumping. Heel tendon that feels tight. Pain when you squeeze the child's heel near the back. Pain in one or both heels.

Diagnosis

A doctor or other health professional such as a physiotherapist can diagnose Sever?s disease by asking the young person to describe their symptoms and by conducting a physical examination. In some instances, an x-ray may be necessary to rule out other causes of heel pain, such as heel fractures. Sever?s disease does not show on an x-ray because the damage is in the cartilage.

Non Surgical Treatment

If your child is diagnosed with Sever's disease, treatment is fairly straightforward. He or she should avoid any activities that cause a flare-up of heel pain. Treat the pain with ice for 20 minutes, three times a day. If the pain is severe, over-the-counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen can be used for a short period of time. (Don't use aspirin in a child or teen because it can result in a rare but life-threatening condition called Reye's syndrome.) In some instances, a child might have other foot problems, as well, such as high arches, flat feet, or bowed legs. In these instances, your doctor can recommend an orthotic device to help further prevent the pain related to Sever's disease. One other simple tip that can prevent Sever's disease or speed along recovery is for your child to wear supportive shoes and avoid going barefoot as much as possible.

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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