What Is Calcaneal Apophysitis? Calcaneal apophysitis is a painful inflammation of the heel?s growth plate. It typically affects children between the ages of 8 and 14 years old, because the heel bone (calcaneus) is not fully developed until at least age 14. Until then, new bone is forming at the growth plate (physis), a weak area located at the back of the heel. When there is too much repetitive stress on the growth plate, inflammation can develop. Calcaneal apophysitis is also called Sever?s disease, although it is not a true ?disease.? It is the most common cause of heel pain in children, and can occur in one or both feet. Heel pain in children differs from the most common type of heel pain experienced by adults. While heel pain in adults usually subsides after a period of walking, pediatric heel pain generally doesn?t improve in this manner. In fact, walking typically makes the pain worse.
There are many biomechanical factors that predispose a young athlete to calcaneal apophysitis. The majority of patients will present with an ankle equinus deformity, which ultimately exerts an increased pulling force to the Achilles insertion and non-ossified apophysis. Furthermore, patients may present with hyperpronation of the rearfoot. This allows more of a ?teeter-totter? effect or lack of motion control on the frontal plane of the calcaneus.
The pain associated with Sever's disease is usually felt along the back of the heel and becomes worse when running or walking. In some children, the pain is so severe they may limp when walking. One of the diagnostic tests for Sever's disease is the "squeeze test". Squeezing both sides of the heel together will produce immediate discomfort. Many children feel pain immediately upon waking and may have calf muscle stiffness in the morning.
Sever condition is diagnosed by detecting the characteristic symptoms and signs above in the older children, particularly boys between 8 and 15 years of age. Sometimes X-ray testing can be helpful as it can occasionally demonstrate irregularity of the calcaneus bone at the point where the Achilles tendon attaches.
Non Surgical Treatment
The physiotherapist will thoroughly assess the affected areas and general mechanics to determine what factors may be contributing, also to rule out any other injuries or stress fractures, etc. Treatment focusing on the affected area will consist of modified rest, ice, massage, stretches and electrotherapy. A foam heel raise may also be given to help decrease pain. The physiotherapist may also treat other areas if biomechanical problems are noted. This may include massage, mobilization and exercises to stretch and strengthen certain areas. They may also refer the patient to see a podiatrist if they believe the foot posture is a factor.
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.