What Are The Causes Of Calcaneal Apophysitis?

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Overview

Sever?s disease is a painful condition of the heel affecting children, usually at the beginning of the growth spurt in early puberty. It is caused by inflammation at the growth plate at the back of the heel, adjacent to the Achilles tendon attachment. This is one of the most common causes of heel pain in school-aged children. Physically active children aged between eight and fourteen years old are most at risk of developing pain from Sever?s disease. It is common among children involved in soccer, little athletics, gymnastics, basketball and netball but can affect children involved in any running or jumping activity. Boys seem to be more commonly affected than girls.

Causes

The exact cause of Severs disease is not completely understood. It is thought to be associated with an overuse type injury, in which repetitive stress from the Achilles tendon causes a portion of the growth plate to pull away from the heel. In medical terms, this is described as cyclic, micro-avulsion type fractures to the calcaneal apophyses.

Symptoms

Symptoms of calcaneal apophysitis may include Pain in the back or bottom of the heel, Limping, Walking on toes, Difficulty running, jumping, or participating in usual activities or sports, Pain when the sides of the heel are squeezed.

Diagnosis

The doctor may order an x-ray because x-rays can confirm how mature the growth center is and if there are other sources of heel pain, such as a stress fracture or bone cyst. However, x-rays are not necessary to diagnose Sever?s disease, and it is not possible to make the diagnosis based on the x-ray alone.

Non Surgical Treatment

Initially, Sever?s Disease is treated with rest, anti-inflammatory medication and softer shoes. Ice followed by heat is a common practice and heel cup orthotics have worked wonders for our young patients in the past. It can take anywhere from a few weeks to a year for these growth plates to naturally close - at which point Sever?s Disease disappears. Even though the condition does heal on its own, athletes are encouraged to seek treatment, rather than push through the pain. Simply ?dealing with it? and continuing to play sports despite the injury could lead to an impaired gait, a strained hip or a knee injury. Stretches to strengthen the leg muscles, leg compression wraps and over-the-counter acetaminophen or ibuprofen are also recommended treatments. In very rare cases, a podiatrist may recommend wearing a cast for two to twelve weeks.

Recovery

Sever?s disease is self-recovering, meaning that it will go away on its own when sport is reduced or as the bones mature. The condition is not expected to create any long-term disability, and expected to subside in 2-8 weeks. However, while the disease does subside quickly, it can recur, for example at the start of a new sports season or during a growth spurt. If your pain does return you will need to re-introduce the above treatment plan. If the pain persists please seek further advice from your GP.
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