Does Calcaneal Apophysitis Need Surgery?

Overview

Severs disease is pain in one or both heels when walking. The pain comes from the area between the sections of bone that make up the heel. As you go through a ?growth spurt? the tendon at the back of the heel (Achilles tendon) pulls at the heel bone. This makes you limp or walk on your toes and often creates a lump on your heel. The reason the tendon is tight is because your bones grow faster than your muscles. It usually affects boys between eight to ten years old, girls between ten and 12 years old, children in a ?growth spurt?, children involved in sports, usually those that involve running and jumping.

Causes

The condition is thought to result from repetitive microtrauma to growth plates of the calcaneus. Although some of the recent articles says, there is no evidence to support that weight and activity levels are risk factors for Sever's disease. High plantar foot pressures are associated with Sever's disease, although it is unclear whether they are a predisposing factor or a result of the condition. Gastrocnemius equinus may be a predisposing factor for Sever's disease.

Symptoms

If your child is suffering from this disease they will be experiencing pain and tenderness in the back of their foot. This soreness can also extend to the sides of the feet. Other sure signs of this disorder include swelling and sensitivity to touch. Because of the amount of discomfort, your child may find it difficult to walk or run. Pay attention to the way your child is walking. If you notice unusual posture or abnormal gait they may be avoiding placing pressure on the heel. These symptoms typically become apparent during activity and exercise or directly following it. If your child is indicating pain in their heel, schedule an appointment with us today.

Diagnosis

Low-grade inflammation of the calcaneal apophysis cannot be seen on x-ray. Therefore, although x-rays are often done to rule out bony injuries in children with Sever's disease these x-rays are usually normal. Advanced Sever's disease can be seen on x-ray but usually the problem is treated before it reaches this point. Other diagnostic tests, such as bone scans or MRI's, are not usually required in typical cases of Sever's disease. These, or other tests, may be required to rule out other conditions, such as stress fractures of the calcaneus or other bony abnormalities that can mimic Severs disease.

Non Surgical Treatment

Cold packs: Apply ice or cold packs to the back of the heels for around 15 minutes after any physical activity, including walking.

Shoe inserts: Small heel inserts worn inside the shoes can take some of the traction pressure off the Achilles tendons. This will only be required in the short term.

Medication: Pain-relieving medication may help in extreme cases, but should always be combined with other treatment and following consultation with your doctor).

Anti-inflammatory creams: Also an effective management tool.

Splinting or casting: In severe cases, it may be necessary to immobilise the lower leg using a splint or cast, but this is rare.

Time: Generally the pain will ease in one to two weeks, although there may be flare-ups from time to time.

Correction of any biomechanical issues: A physiotherapist can identify and discuss any biomechanical issues that may cause or worsen the condition.

Education: Education on how to self-manage the symptoms and flare-ups of Sever?s disease is an essential part of the treatment.

Exercise

Stretching exercises can help. It is important that your child performs exercises to stretch the hamstring and calf muscles, and the tendons on the back of the leg. The child should do these stretches 2 or 3 times a day. Each stretch should be held for about 20 seconds. Both legs should be stretched, even if the pain is only in 1 heel. Your child also needs to do exercises to strengthen the muscles on the front of the shin. To do this, your child should sit on the floor, keeping his or her hurt leg straight. One end of a bungee cord or piece of rubber tubing is hooked around a table leg. The other end is hitched around the child's toes. The child then scoots back just far enough to stretch the cord. Next, the child slowly bends the foot toward his or her body. When the child cannot bend the foot any closer, he or she slowly points the foot in the opposite direction (toward the table). This exercise (15 repetitions of "foot curling") should be done about 3 times. The child should do this exercise routine a few times daily.

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