Will Calcaneal Apophysitis Always Require Surgical Treatments?

Overview

One of the most common complaints of youth athletes is heel pain. This generally occurs during the early portion of the growth phase around 8-10 years old, and can recur towards the end of growth, (14-16 years old). Symptoms are typically in the back portion of the heel, can occur unilaterally or bilaterally, usually having a gradual onset. The heel bone?s growth plate is in this area, which is immature soft bone and cartilage. A ?tug of war? occurs in this region from the foot growing longer and the leg bones getting taller, which puts tension on this heel bone area known as the calcaneal apophysis. The inflammation is called calcaneal apophysitis or ?Sever?s disease?.

Causes

The cause of Sever's disease is not entirely clear. It is most likely due to overuse or repeated minor trauma that happens in a lot of sporting activities - the cartilage join between the two parts of the bone can not take all the shear stress of the activities. Some children seem to be just more prone to it for an unknown reason - combine this with sport, especially if its on a hard surface and the risk of getting it increases. It can be almost epidemic at the start of some sports seasons, especially winter. At the start of winter, the grounds are often harder, but soften later. Children who are heavier are also at greater risk for developing calcaneal apophysitis.

Symptoms

The patient complains of activity related pain that usually settles with rest. On Examination the heel bone - or calcaneum - is tender on one or both sides. The gastrocnemius and soleus muscles (calf muscles) may be tight and bending of the ankle might be limited because of that. Foot pronation (rolling in) often exacerbates the problem. There is rarely anything to see and with no redness or swelling and a pain that comes and goes mum and dad often wait before seeking advice on this condition. The pain may come on partway through a game and get worse or come at the end of the game. Initially pain will be related only to activity but as it gets worse the soreness will still be there the next morning and the child might limp on first getting up.

Diagnosis

Sever?s disease is diagnosed based on a doctor?s physical examination of the lower leg, ankle, and foot. If the diagnosis is in question, the doctor may order x-rays or an MRI to determine if there are other injuries that may be causing the heel pain.

Non Surgical Treatment

For patients suffering from Sever's disease, the pediatric orthopaedic surgeon will often recommend a conservative treatment plan including anti-inflammatory medication (as directed by the doctor). Application of ice to the heel. Calf, hamstring, and heel stretches. Orthotics. Modification of activities. There are rarely any complications with the treatment of Sever's disease, and symptoms generally resolve within 2 weeks to 2 months. Patients can typically return to playing sports again after the heel pain has resolved. The physician will let confirm when it is safe to resume physical activities.

Exercise

The following exercises are commonly prescribed to patients with Severs disease. You should discuss the suitability of these exercises with your physiotherapist prior to beginning them. Generally, they should be performed 1 - 3 times daily and only provided they do not cause or increase symptoms. Your physiotherapist can advise when it is appropriate to begin the initial exercises and eventually progress to the intermediate, advanced and other exercises. As a general rule, addition of exercises or progression to more advanced exercises should take place provided there is no increase in symptoms. Calf Stretch with Towel. Begin this stretch in long sitting with your leg to be stretched in front of you. Your knee and back should be straight and a towel or rigid band placed around your foot as demonstrated. Using your foot, ankle and the towel, bring your toes towards your head as far as you can go without pain and provided you feel no more than a mild to moderate stretch in the back of your calf, Achilles tendon or leg. Hold for 5 seconds and repeat 10 times at a mild to moderate stretch provided the exercise is pain free. Calf Stretch with Towel. Begin this exercise with a resistance band around your foot and your foot and ankle held up towards your head. Slowly move your foot and ankle down against the resistance band as far as possible and comfortable without pain, tightening your calf muscle. Very slowly return back to the starting position. Repeat 10 - 20 times provided the exercise is pain free. Once you can perform 20 repetitions consistently without pain, the exercise can be progressed by gradually increasing the resistance of the band provided there is no increase in symptoms. Bridging. Begin this exercise lying on your back in the position demonstrated. Slowly lift your bottom pushing through your feet, until your knees, hips and shoulders are in a straight line. Tighten your bottom muscles (gluteals) as you do this. Hold for 2 seconds then slowly lower your bottom back down. Repeat 10 times provided the exercise is pain free.

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