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Calcaneal Apophysitis The Facts

Overview

Sever's disease is a disorder of the growth plate of the calcaneus. Symptoms most often occur at the posterior (back of the heel) aspect of the growth plate but sometimes are experienced at the plantar aspect below the heel. The Achilles tendon attaches to the posterior aspect of the growth plate and the plantar fascia takes part of its origin from the plantar aspect. Sever?s disease occurs more often in boys than girls. The age of onset is usually between 8 to 12 years. Sever?s disease is believed to be caused by overuse. On x-ray the growth center first appears in girls between the ages of 4 to 6 years and boys aged 7 to 8 years. The centers fuse to the primary ossification center of the calcaneus in girls at approximately ages 12 to 14 on boys at ages 15 to 17.

Causes

Sever's disease is a common cause of heel pain in physically active growing kids. It usually occurs during the growth spurt of adolescence, the approximately 2-year period in early puberty when kids grow most rapidly. This growth spurt can begin anytime between the ages of 8 to 13 for girls and 10 to 15 for boys. Peak incidences are girls, 8 to 10 years old. boys, 10 to 12 years old.

Symptoms

Pain is reproduced through a gentle squeeze of the back of the heel. Children may present with a limp or ?Bouncy gait?. Pain is worse barefoot and often present in the mornings and post exercise. The pain is located at the back of the heel, with localized swelling of the area.

Diagnosis

The x-ray appearance usually shows the apophysis to be divided into multiple parts. Sometimes a series of small fragments is noted. Asymptomatic heels may also show x-ray findings of resporption, fragmentation and increased density. But they occur much less often in the normal foot. Pulling or ?traction? of the Achilles tendon on the unossified growth plate is a likely contributing factor to Sever?s disease. Excessive pronation and a tight Achilles and limited dorsiflexion may also contribute to the development of this condition.

Non Surgical Treatment

Heel pain, unlike the heel spurs, that occur in adults is very uncommon in children. Of those children who do get heel pain, by far the most common cause is a disturbance to the growing area at the back of the heel bone (calcaneus) where the strong achilles tendon attaches to it. This is known as Sever's disease or calcaneal apophysitis (inflammation of the growth plate). It is most common between the ages of 10 to 14 years of age. These are one of several different 'osteochondroses' that can occur in other parts of the body, such as at the knee (Osgood-Schlatters Disease).

Prevention

Once your child?s growth spurt ends, and she's reached full size, her Sever?s disease won?t return. Until then, the condition can happen again if your child stays very active. Some simple steps can help prevent it. Have your child. Wear supportive, shock-absorbing shoes. Stretch her calves, heels, and hamstrings. Not overdo it. Warn against over-training, and suggest plenty of rest, especially if she begins to feel pain in her heel. Try to avoid lots of running and pounding on hard surfaces. If she?s overweight, help her lose those extra pounds, which can increase pressure on her heels.
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