What Would Cause Calcaneal Apophysitis?

Overview

Unlike adults, heel pain is very uncommon in children. When children do experience heel pain, it is highly likely to be caused by a disturbance to the growth plate in the backof the heel bone (calcaneus), where the Achilles tendon attaches to the heel. This disturbance is known as Sever?s disease or calcaneal apophysitis (inflammation of the growth plate). Sever?s disease is most common between the ages of 10 and 14 years, and it is one of several different ?osteochondroses? that may occur in other parts of the body, such as at the knee, such as Osgood-Schlatters Disease. This condition occurs in children because they are still growing and their bodies harbor many ?growth plates?. 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.

Causes

There are several causes of heel pain in the young athletic population with the most common being calcaneal apophysitis (also referred to as Sever?s disease). Sever first reported calcaneal apophysitis in 1912 as an inflammation of the apophysis, causing discomfort to the heel, mild swelling and difficulty walking in growing children. The condition usually manifests between the ages of 8 and 14 with a higher incidence in boys than girls. In reality, however, calcaneal apophysitis is being diagnosed more frequently in girls due to their increase in participating in sports such as soccer, basketball and softball.

Symptoms

Sever's disease usually develops gradually. The pain from Sever's disease is often intermittent and localized to the area where the Achilles tendon attaches to the calcaneus. Swelling may be noted in this area. There can be tenderness on squeezing the calcaneus or pain when trying to stretch the calf muscles. Occasionally there is night pain. As Sever's disease progresses there can be continuous pain.

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

Heel pain, unlike the heel spurs, that occur in adults is very uncommon in children. Of those children who do get heel pain, by far the most common cause is a disturbance to the growing area at the back of the heel bone (calcaneus) where the strong achilles tendon attaches to it. This is known as Sever's disease or calcaneal apophysitis (inflammation of the growth plate). It is most common between the ages of 10 to 14 years of age. These are one of several different 'osteochondroses' that can occur in other parts of the body, such as at the knee (Osgood-Schlatters Disease).

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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