Heel pain in children and adolescence: is the most common osteochondrosis (disease that affects the bone growth). Osteochondrosis is seen only in children and teens whose bones are still growing of the foot. Sever’s disease or Apophysitis is a common condition that afflicts children usually between the ages of 8 to 15 years old. Often this is confused with plantar fasciitis which is rare in children. This is a condition of inflammation of the heel’s growth plates.
The foot is one of the first body parts to grow to full size. During the time of growth, bones grow faster than muscles and tendons. This results in the muscles and tendons becoming tight. The strongest tendon that attaches to the heel is the Achilles Tendon. It attaches to the back of the heel at the site of the growth plate, and during sports activities it pulls with great force on the growth plate. If this pull by the tight Achilles Tendon (calf muscle) continues for long periods of time, the growth plate may become inflamed and painful. If exertive activities continue, Sever’s Disease may result.
Pain is usually felt at the back of the heel and around the sides of the heel. If you squeeze the back of the heel from both sides simultaneously and pain is experienced Sever?s disease is more than likely present.
Low-grade inflammation of the calcaneal apophysis cannot be seen on x-ray. Therefore, although x-rays are often done to rule out bony injuries in children with Sever’s disease these x-rays are usually normal. Advanced Sever’s disease can be seen on x-ray but usually the problem is treated before it reaches this point. Other diagnostic tests, such as bone scans or MRI’s, are not usually required in typical cases of Sever’s disease. These, or other tests, may be required to rule out other conditions, such as stress fractures of the calcaneus or other bony abnormalities that can mimic Severs disease.
Non Surgical Treatment
The practitioner should inform the patient and the patient?s parents that this is not a dangerous disorder and that it will resolve spontaneously as the patient matures (16-18 years old). Treatment depends on the severity of the child?s symptoms. The condition is self-limiting, thus the patient?s activity level should be limited only by pain. Treatment is quite varied. Relative Rest/ Modified rest or cessation of sports. Cryotherapy. Stretching Triceps Surae and strengthen extensors. Nighttime dorsiflexion splints (often used for plantar fasciitis, relieve the symptoms and help to maintain flexibility). Plantar fascial stretching. Gentle mobilizations to the subtalar joint and forefoot area. Heel lifts, Orthoses (all types, heel cups, heel foam), padding for shock absorption or strapping of heel to decrease impact shock. Electrical stimulation in the form of Russian stimulation sine wave modulated at 2500 Hz with a 12 second on time and an 8 second off time with a 3 second ramp. Advise to wear supportive shoes. Ultrasound, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Casting (2-4 weeks) or Crutches (sever cases). Corticosteroid injections are not recommended. Ketoprofen Gel as an addition to treatment. Symptoms usually resolve in a few weeks to 2 months after therapy is initiated. In order to prevent calcaneal apophysitis when returning to sports (after successful treatment and full recovery), icing and stretching after activity are most indicated. Respectable opinion and poorly conducted retrospective case series make up the majority of evidence on this condition. The level of evidence for most of what we purport to know about Sever?s disease is at such a level that prospective, well-designed studies are a necessity to allow any confidence in describing this condition and its treatment.
For children with Sever’s disease, it is important to habitually perform exercises to stretch the hamstrings, calf muscles, and the tendons on the back of the leg. Stretching should be performed 2-3 times a day. Each stretch should be performed for 20 seconds, and both legs should be stretched, even if the pain is only in one heel. Heel cups or an inner shoe heel lifts are often recommended for patient suffering from Sever’s disease. Wearing running shoes with built in heel cups can also decrease the symptoms because they can help soften the impact on the heel when walking, running, or standing.