Calcaneal Apophysitis In Babies

Overview

If your teen or preteen is complaining of heel pain, it might be Sever?s disease. No need to stress - this isn?t actually a ?disease,? but rather a common type of growing pain that only lasts a few weeks or months and doesn?t leave any long-term damage. Sever?s disease occurs in kids as they hit their adolescent growth spurt, usually between the ages of 8-13 for girls and 10-15 for boys. It?s most common among active kids that run, play basketball or soccer, or do gymnastics. Kids with flat feet, high arches, short leg syndrome, over-pronation (feet that roll inward when they walk) or who are overweight or obese also have an increased risk.

Causes

With early puberty, the growth plate at the end of the heel develops, transforming cartilage cells into bone cells. This painful heel condition occurs during these growth spurts, when the heel bone grows more rapidly than the muscles and tendons of the leg. The discrepancy between rates of development causes excess pressure and tension to be placed upon the heel and it becomes less flexible. This condition affects active children the most. Due to the amount of exercise, more stress is placed upon the tendons which in turn causes more damage to the growth plate. The bone plates fully mature and harden by the time a child reaches the age of 15.

Symptoms

The most prominent symptom of Sever's disease is heel pain which is usually aggravated by physical activity such as walking, running or jumping. The pain is localised to the posterior and plantar side of the heel over the calcaneal apophysis. Sometimes, the pain may be so severe that it may cause limping and interfere with physical performance in sports. External appearance of the heel is almost always normal, and signs of local disease such as edema, erythema (redness) are absent. The main diagnostic tool is pain on medial- lateral compression of the calcaneus in the area of growth plate, so called squeeze test. Foot radiographs are usually normal. Therefore the diagnosis of Sever's disease is primarily clinical.

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

Treatment includes modifying activities and resting to reduce pain and inflammation and take pressure off the growth center. Ice can also be very helpful in relieving symptoms, as well as anti-inflammatory medication. A physical therapy program should be initiated to stretch tight calf muscles and strengthen the ankle muscles to relieve tension on the growth center. Shoes with padded heel surfaces and good arch support can decrease pain. Cleats may need to be avoided for some time to help reduce symptoms. The doctor may also recommend gel heel cups or supportive shoe inserts.

Prevention

Because there are several theories as to the actual cause of the disease, there is no definitive answer on prevention. Experts agree, though, that youth athletes can help minimize the risk of Sever's disease by maintaining good joint and muscle flexibility while engaging in sports or physical activities.

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