Will Calcaneal Apophysitis Often Call For Surgical Treatment?

Overview

If your child is experiencing activity related pain just below the kneecap, at the top of the shinbone, or in their heel or hip then the chances are they are suffering from Osgood Schlatter, Severs disease or Ischial Apophysitis respectively. Today, thousands of children are diagnosed with one of these conditions every year. Many others are never diagnosed and the discomfort is often dismissed as 'growing pains'

Causes

During the growth spurt of early puberty, the heel bone (also called the calcaneus) sometimes grows faster than the leg muscles and tendons. This can cause the muscles and tendons to become very tight and overstretched, making the heel less flexible and putting pressure on the growth plate. The Achilles tendon (also called the heel cord) is the strongest tendon that attaches to the growth plate in the heel. Over time, repeated stress (force or pressure) on the already tight Achilles tendon damages the growth plate, causing the swelling, tenderness, and pain of Sever's disease. Such stress commonly results from physical activities and sports that involve running and jumping, especially those that take place on hard surfaces, such as track, basketball, soccer, and gymnastics.

Symptoms

If your child has any of the following symptoms, call your pediatrician for an evaluation. Heel pain that begins after starting a new sports season or a new sport. Walking with a limp or on tiptoes. Pain that increases with running or jumping. Heel tendon that feels tight. Pain when you squeeze the child's heel near the back. Pain in one or both heels.

Diagnosis

Your Podiatrist or Physiotherapist will assist in diagnosing the injury and the extent of the damage. From this, they will develop a management plan which may include rest or activity modification, soft tissue treatment such as massage and stretching, correction of biomechanics through heel raises or orthoses and the progression through a series of specific strengthening exercises.

Non Surgical Treatment

The aim of treatment is to reduce the pain and inflammation when gently stretch the muscles. There is likely to be no magic instant cure and the young athlete may have to be patient while they grow. Rest and apply ice or cold therapy to the heel. Do not apply ice directly to the skin but wrap in a wet tea towel to avoid ice burns. Rest from activities which cause pain. If running and playing football makes it worse then reduce or stop this activity and try cycling or swimming to maintain fitness. A temporary measure is to insert a heel pad or heel raise into the shoes. This has the effect of raising the heel and shortening the calf muscles and so taking the strain off the back of the heel. However long term use of a heal raise may shorten the calf muscles when they need stretching. Stretch the calf muscles regularly. Stretching should be done pain free and very gently with this injury. See a sports injury professional who can advise on treatment and rehabilitation.

Prevention

As with all overuse injuries, it is important to warm up sufficiently before you exercise and warm down afterwards. You should build up any alterations in the intensity of your training gradually, and never continue exercising with weakened or fatigued muscles. Replace any worn or tattered shoes, as in this condition they become useless for absorbing shock and protecting the feet.

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