Calcaneal Apophysitis Physiotherapy

Overview

Although the name might sound pretty frightening, Sever's disease is really a common heel injury that occurs in kids. It can be painful, but is only temporary and has no long-term effects. Sever's disease, also called calcaneal apophysitis, is a painful bone disorder that results from inflammation (swelling) of the growth plate in the heel. A growth plate, also called an epiphyseal plate, is an area at the end of a developing bone where cartilage cells change over time into bone cells. As this occurs, the growth plates expand and unite, which is how bones grow. Sever's disease is a common cause of heel pain in growing kids, especially those who are physically active. It usually occurs during the growth spurt of adolescence, the approximately 2-year period in early puberty when kids grow most rapidly. This growth spurt can begin any time between the ages of 8 and 13 for girls and 10 and 15 for boys. Sever's disease rarely occurs in older teens because the back of the heel usually finishes growing by the age of 15, when the growth plate hardens and the growing bones fuse together into mature bone. Sever's disease is similar to Osgood-Schlatter disease, a condition that affects the bones in the knees.

Causes

Severs disease is often associated with a rapid growth spurt. As the bones get longer, the muscles and tendons become tighter as they cannot keep up with the bone growth. The point at which the achilles tendon attaches to the heel becomes inflamed and the bone starts to crumble (a lot like osgood schlatters disease of the knee). Tight calf muscles may contribute as the range of motion at the ankle is reduced resulting in more strain on the achilles tendon. Sever's disease is the second most common injury of this type which is known as an apophysitis.

Symptoms

Most children with Sever's complain of pain in the heel that occurs during or after activity (typically running or jumping) and is usually relieved by rest. The pain may be worse when wearing cleats. Sixty percent of children's with Sever's report experiencing pain in both heels.

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

* Cold packs: Apply ice or cold packs to the back of the heels for around 15 minutes after any physical activity, including walking.

* Shoe inserts: Small heel inserts worn inside the shoes can take some of the traction pressure off the Achilles tendons. This will only be required in the short term.

* Medication: Pain-relieving medication may help in extreme cases, but should always be combined with other treatment and following consultation with your doctor).

* Anti-inflammatory creams: Also an effective management tool.

* Splinting or casting: In severe cases, it may be necessary to immobilise the lower leg using a splint or cast, but this is rare.

* Time: Generally the pain will ease in one to two weeks, although there may be flare-ups from time to time.

* Correction of any biomechanical issues: A physiotherapist can identify and discuss any biomechanical issues that may cause or worsen the condition.

* Education: Education on how to self-manage the symptoms and flare-ups of Sever?s disease is an essential part of the treatment.

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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