Calcaneal Apophysitis Physical Therapy

Overview

Sever?s Disease is one of the most common overuse injuries affecting children during their secondary growth spurts and is described as a self-limiting condition resolving naturally with skeletal maturity 1. It is suggested to be caused by progressive microtrauma to the bone-cartilage interface in the calcaneal apophysis partly due to large traction forces in the Achilles tendon. The current standard treatment consists mainly of rest, and waiting for skeletal maturity.

Causes

A child is most at risk for this condition when he or she is in the early part of the growth spurt in early puberty. Sever?s disease is most common in physically active girls eight to ten years old and in physically active boys ten to twelve years old. Soccer players and gymnasts often get Sever?s disease, but children who do any running or jumping activity may be affected. Sever?s disease rarely occurs in older teenagers, because the back of the heel has finished growing by the age of fifteen.

Symptoms

The typical clinical presentation is an active child (aged 9-10 years) who complains of pain at the posterior heel that is made worse by sports, especially those involving running or jumping. The onset is usually gradual. Often, the pain has been relieved somewhat with rest and consequently has been patiently monitored by the patient, parents, coaches, trainers, and family physicians, in the expectation that it will resolve. When the pain continues to interfere with sports performance and then with daily activities, further consultation is sought. It should be kept in mind that failure to instruct patients and parents that continual pain, significant swelling or redness, and fever are not signs of Sever disease and therefore require further evaluation could result in failure to diagnose a condition with much more serious long-term consequences.

Diagnosis

Physical examination varies depending on the severity and length of involvement. Bilateral involvement is present in approximately 60% of cases. Most patients experience pain with deep palpation at the Achilles insertion and pain when performing active toe raises. Forced dorsiflexion of the ankle also proves uncomfortable and is relieved with passive equinus positioning. Swelling may be present but usually is mild. In long-standing cases, the child may have calcaneal enlargement.

Non Surgical Treatment

Depending on the Podiatrist's diagnosis and the severity of the pain, there are several treatment options available. Rest/ reduced activity: your child should reduce or stop any activity that causes pain, such as sports and running. This can be a difficult option, as children are normally quite willful in pursuit of their favorite pastimes! Over the counter anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen (found in Nurofen), to help reduce pain and inflammation. Try to make sure your child does the recommended stretching exercises before sport/play. This will should help reduce the stress on the fascia tendon and relieve heel pain. The use of Orthotic insoles. Footactive Kids orthotics are made for children. They will help properly support the foot, help prevent over-pronation or improper gait restoring your child's foot the the correct biomechanical position. If you are in any doubt or your child's foot pain persists then please arrange an appointment with a Podiatrist or Physiotherapist. Please click here for more information on the use of orthotics for children.

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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