Nonoperative management of retrocalcaneal pain with AFO and stretching regimen

Academic Article


  • Background: Retrocalcaneal heel pain is caused by a spectrum of etiologies all resulting in the same symptom of pain at the tendon-Achilles insertion. Several studies have reported the outcomes of operative treatment, but none have reported the outcomes or success rates of nonoperative treatment. We describe a detailed treatment algorithm and report the clinical outcomes. Methods: One hundred thirty-five patients were prescribed a treatment regimen consisting of an AFO and stretching program and were enrolled in our prospective study. One hundred three patients completed pre- and post-treatment Foot Function Indices and were included in the analysis. The effect on FFI from clinical and radiographic factors was examined. Results: Of the study population, 76% had a BMI greater than 25, 80% were older than 50 years, and 75% had an exostosis on radiographs. The mean pre-treatment FFI was 48.4 and the mean post-treatment FFI was 18.6 indicating a statistically significant improvement in function of 29.8. Neither BMI nor age had a significant effect on the magnitude of improvement; though, smokers had significantly less improvement. FFI improvement in patients with an exostosis were less than those without an exostosis. Patients with an exostosis less than 1 cm had less improvement than those with an exostosis of 1 cm or more. Patients with Types I and III exostoses had significantly less improvement in FFI compared to Types II and IV. Twelve of the 103 (11.6%) were not pleased with the results of nonoperative treatment and elected to have a procedure performed. Conclusion: Our study is the first to report the outcome of non operatively treated retrocalcaneal heel pain and to classify retrocalcaneal exostoses. Using our treatment algorithm, we had an 88% success rate in alleviating symptoms and avoiding surgery. Our data suggests that the use of an AFO and stretching regimen may benefit patients suffering from retrocalcaneal heel pain. Copyright © 2012 by the American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society.
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    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Johnson MD; Alvarez RG; Swafford R
  • Start Page

  • 571
  • End Page

  • 581
  • Volume

  • 33
  • Issue

  • 7