Living With Calcaneal Apophysitis

Overview

Sever?s disease, also known as calcaneal apophysitis or Osgood-Schlatter syndrome of the foot. This traction apophysitis is secondary to repetitive microtraumata or overuse of the heel in young athletes. The calcaneus is situated at the most plantar posterior aspect of the foot. The Achilles tendon inserts to the lower, posterior and slightly medial aspect of the calcaneus. The plantar fascia originates from the medial tubercle on the plantar aspect of the calcaneus. Proximal to the epiphysis is the apophysis, where the Achilles tendon actually inserts. The calcaneal growth plate and apophysis are situated in an area subject to high stress from the plantar and Achilles tendon.

Causes

Sever disease, like other similar conditions (eg, Osgood-Schlatter disease, little-leaguer's elbow, and iliac apophysitis), is believed to be caused by decreased resistance to shear stress at the bone-growth plate interface. Studies have indicated that traction apophyses have a higher composition of fibrocartilage than epiphyses subjected more to axial load, which are composed predominantly of hyaline cartilage. The anatomy of the calcaneal apophysis lends to significant shear stress because of its vertical orientation and the direction of pull from the strong gastrocnemius-soleus muscle group.

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

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. 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

Stretching programs. Strengthening exercises. Exercise and training modification. Orthotic therapy. In rare cases, where fragmentation of the apophysis exists and pain fails to subside with traditional treatments then immobilization of the foot and ankle with a short leg pneumatic walker(walking cast) is indicated.

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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