Calcaneal Apophysitis Physical Therapy

Overview

Sever's disease is commonly found in young athletes during early puberty. It is a form of aphophysitis, an inflammatory condition of the growth plate that sits below the insertion of a tendon. In the case of Sever's, the Achilles tendon places tension on the growth plate of the calcaneus (or heel bone). Sever's disease is common in sports like soccer, volleyball, football, basketball and gymnastics, as jumping and running typically exacerbate the condition. Symptoms of Sever's are heel pain that may worsen with activity, and one may also notice a tiptoe gait as the athlete tries to take weight off the heel.

Causes

A child is most at risk for this condition when he or she is in the early part of the growth spurt in early puberty. Sever?s disease is most common in physically active girls eight to ten years old and in physically active boys ten to twelve years old. Soccer players and gymnasts often get Sever?s disease, but children who do any running or jumping activity may be affected. Sever?s disease rarely occurs in older teenagers, because the back of the heel has finished growing by the age of fifteen.

Symptoms

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.

Diagnosis

A physical exam of the heel will show tenderness over the back of the heel but not in the Achilles tendon or plantar fascia. There may be tightness in the calf muscle, which contributes to tension on the heel. The tendons in the heel get stretched more in patients with flat feet. There is greater impact force on the heels of athletes with a high-arched, rigid foot.

Non Surgical Treatment

The physiotherapist will thoroughly assess the affected areas and general mechanics to determine what factors may be contributing, also to rule out any other injuries or stress fractures, etc. Treatment focusing on the affected area will consist of modified rest, ice, massage, stretches and electrotherapy. A foam heel raise may also be given to help decrease pain. The physiotherapist may also treat other areas if biomechanical problems are noted. This may include massage, mobilization and exercises to stretch and strengthen certain areas. They may also refer the patient to see a podiatrist if they believe the foot posture is a factor.

Prevention

Because there are several theories as to the actual cause of the disease, there is no definitive answer on prevention. Experts agree, though, that youth athletes can help minimize the risk of Sever's disease by maintaining good joint and muscle flexibility while engaging in sports or physical activities.

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