We treat many patients for heel pain here at Foot & Ankle Center of Oklahoma. When an individual is suffering from heel pain, there are several possible root causes. In our adolescent patients, this pain can frequently be attributed to a medical condition we call calcaneal apophysis (also known as Sever’s disease). Adolescents can experience the condition in either foot, or sometimes both, but parents are often relieved to find out that it is only a temporary problem for their son or daughter.
Sever’s Disease Cause and Symptoms
The name of the condition can be a bit misleading, because it is not technically a disease. While there can be a link between Sever’s and physical activity, this is also not an injury. Rather, calcaneal apophysis is a medical issue that develops due to variances in the physical maturity rates of the heel bone (calcaneus) and its connective tissue, particularly the Achilles tendon. The Achilles attaches the calcaneus to the calf muscle and has a tendency to grow at a slower rate than the heel bone. This leads to a condition where the tendon and calf muscles become excessively stretched and tight as a result.
Girls between the ages of 8 to 13 and boys aged 10 and 15 are most likely to experience this issue. Physical activity can lead to increased levels of pain and other symptoms for both genders. It is worth noting that there are other contributing factors such as overuse, standing for extending periods of time, and ill-fitting footwear.
Symptoms of this condition include:
- Heel pain.
- Redness, swelling, and tenderness (evident with a gentle squeeze on the back of the heel).
- Walking with a limp or even difficulty walking.
- Discomfort and stiffness in the heel area.
Any of these symptoms will generally be worse either during or immediately following physical activities, but they typically will improve with rest.
Treating Sever’s Disease
Because the condition is basically caused by natural growth processes, treatment is not necessarily centered on the condition itself, but rather on relieving painful symptoms.
Common treatment options for a case of calcaneal apophysis include:
- Reduced levels of physical activity – Any activities that cause pain need to be restricted or possibly even stopped altogether.
- Medication – To further reduce levels of inflammation and pain, we may recommend or prescribe nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen or naproxen. Always make sure that you contact us for specific recommendations and appropriate dosages for your adolescent.
- Physical therapy – Therapeutic modalities and stretching exercises can be quite beneficial in the healing processes for inflamed tissue.
- Support for affected heels – We may recommend shoe inserts or provide custom orthotic devices to support the heel. These options can alleviate pain and inflammation.
- Immobilization – In rare cases that bring severe pain, we may use casting to immobilize the affected area and promote healing.
Because you can’t control your child’s growth pattern, there is no actual way to “prevent” this heel problem. However, keeping a healthy body weight, wearing supportive shoes and footwear (especially for athletic activities), and limiting high-impact activities are all proactive measures that can reduce any heel pain that accompanies the condition. All of these actions are useful for keeping excessive pressure off heel.
Fortunately, this common source of adolescent heel pain does not come with any long-term damage and your child will simply grow out of it in time.
Child Heel Pain Treatment in Oklahoma, OK
There is a good chance that your son or daughter has calcaneal apophysis if he or she is experiencing heel pain during adolescent years (and particularly if it follows physical activity). Although there is no cure for this temporary condition, our office can provide treatment to address the associated symptoms.
Contact Foot & Ankle Center of Oklahoma for additional information or to schedule an appointment with us. Call our Oklahoma, OK office at (405) 418-2676 to speak with one of our professional staff members. You can also feel free to use our online form to connect with us today.
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