How To Diagnose Calcaneal Apophysitis?

Overview

The calcaneal apophysis is a growth center where the Achilles tendon and the plantar fascia attach to the heel. It first appears in children aged 7 to 8 years. By ages 12 to 14 years the growth center matures and fuses to the heel bone. Injuries can occur from excessive tension on the Achilles tendon and the plantar fascia, or from direct impact on the heel. Excessive stress on this growth center can cause irritation of the heel, also called Sever?s disease.

Causes

Contraction of the calf muscles along with the rapid growth of the leg bone (tibia), decreases ankle motion and increases strain on the heel area. This puts strain on the Achilles tendon. Injury results from repetitive pulling through the heel bone by the Achilles and the traction forces from the plantar fascia.

Symptoms

The typical patient is a child between 10 and 13 years of age, complaining of pain in one or both heels with running and walking. The pain is localized to the point of the heel where the tendo-Achilles inserts into the calcaneus, and is tender to deep pressure at that site. Walking on his toes relieves the pain.

Diagnosis

Sever disease is most often diagnosed clinically, and radiographic evaluation is believed to be unnecessary by many physicians, but if a diagnosis of calcaneal apophysitis is made without obtaining radiographs, a lesion requiring more aggressive treatment could be missed. Foot radiographs are usually normal and the radiologic identification of calcaneal apophysitis without the absence of clinical information was not reliable.

Non Surgical Treatment

Your child's healthcare provider will ask about your child's symptoms and examine your child's feet and heels. Any of the following may be done to treat your child's pain. NSAIDs help decrease swelling and pain or fever. This medicine is available with or without a doctor's order. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people. If your child takes blood thinner medicine, always ask if NSAIDs are safe for him. Always read the medicine label and follow directions. Do not give these medicines to children under 6 months of age without direction from your child's doctor. Acetaminophen decreases pain and fever. It is available without a doctor's order. Ask how much your child should take and how often to take it. Follow directions. Acetaminophen can cause liver damage if not taken correctly. Rest will decrease swelling, and keep the heel pain from getting worse. Your child may need to decrease his regular training or exercise. He may need to completely stop running and doing other activities that put pressure on his heel until his heel pain is gone. Ask your child's healthcare provider about activities that do not put pressure on the heel. Ice should be applied on your child's heel for 15 to 20 minutes every hour or as directed. Use an ice pack, or put crushed ice in a plastic bag. Cover it with a towel. Ice helps prevent tissue damage and decreases swelling and pain. Stretching and strengthening exercises may be recommended. A healthcare provider may teach your child exercises to stretch the hamstring and calf muscles and the tendons on the back of the leg. Other exercises will help strengthen the muscles on the front of the lower leg. Your child may be told to stop exercising if he feels any pain. Shoe inserts may be needed. Your child's healthcare provider may give you heel pads or cups for your child's shoes to decrease pressure on the heel bone. You may also be given shoe inserts with firm arch support and a heel lift. Make sure your child wears good quality shoes with padded soles. Your child should not walk barefoot. An elastic wrap or compression stocking may be needed. Your child's healthcare provider may want your child to use a wrap or stocking to help decrease swelling and pain. Ask how to apply the wrap or stocking.

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