Treating Calcaneal Apophysitis
Sever disease, first described in 1912, is a painful inflammation of the calcaneal apophysis. It is classified with the child and adolescent nonarticular osteochondroses. (The other disease in this group is Iselin disease, which is inflammation of the base of the fifth metatarsal.) The etiology of pain in Sever disease is believed to be repetitive trauma to the weaker structure of the apophysis, induced by the pull of the tendo calcaneus (Achilles tendon) on its insertion. This results in a clinical picture of heel pain in a growing active child, which worsens with activity. Sever disease is a self-limited condition; accordingly, no known complication exists from failure to make the correct diagnosis.
Sever disease, like other similar conditions (eg, Osgood-Schlatter disease, little-leaguer’s elbow, and iliac apophysitis), is believed to be caused by decreased resistance to shear stress at the bone-growth plate interface. Studies have indicated that traction apophyses have a higher composition of fibrocartilage than epiphyses subjected more to axial load, which are composed predominantly of hyaline cartilage. The anatomy of the calcaneal apophysis lends to significant shear stress because of its vertical orientation and the direction of pull from the strong gastrocnemius-soleus muscle group.
The most obvious sign of Sever’s disease is pain or tenderness in one or both heels, usually at the back. The pain also might extend to the sides and bottom of the heel, ending near the arch of the foot. A child also may have these related problems, swelling and redness in the heel, difficulty walking, discomfort or stiffness in the feet upon awaking, discomfort when the heel is squeezed on both sides, an unusual walk, such as walking with a limp or on tiptoes to avoid putting pressure on the heel. Symptoms are usually worse during or after activity and get better with rest.
This can include physical examination and x-ray evaluation. X-rays may show some increased density or sclerosis of the apophysis (island of bone on the back of the heel). This problem may be on one side or bilateral.
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.