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Sunday, September 8, 2013

Accessory Navicular Pain: Email Advice

Dear Dr. Blake,

     I was wondering if you would be able to clarify some information to help us make some smart treatment decisions.

     My 13 year old daughter is a high level soccer player. She started to complain of pain in her foot last spring during the time she played soccer and ran track. She also played in 14 games of soccer without ever coming out. A significant increase in activity.

     The pain was located on a bump that has been recently identified as an accessory navicular.  She was first treated with rest and 4 weeks of physical therapy and orthotics. After returning to sport the pain returned but was slightly higher above the ankle.  MRI shows no fracture but edema indicative of stress changes os naviculare. 
Dr Blake's comment: The edema/swelling seen within the os navicularis/os tibial externum/accessory navicular can take months and months to resolve after the initial injury, so not an indication that things are not healing. The pain above the ankle was one of the tendons trying to help out the injury: FDL, PT, FHL, or AT. When one area is injured, the surrounding muscles/tendons help out and do some extra work. That can make them hurt also. A Rule of Three tends to occur until the body re-establishes equilibrium---original problem, compensatory problem #1, and compensatory problem #2. The true injury is at the bump with the accessory bone however. 

     Current treatment is 6 weeks non weight bearing air cast, then progression back to activity. She has so far missed 4 months of training. Everything we seem to read is confusing relating to surgery vs conservative treatment. For a high level athlete looking at missing another 3-4 months is devastating. We are wondering if surgery would be a better option as everything we seem to read indicates non surgical treatments are not effective.
Dr Blake's comment: I am sorry the literature is so poor on this subject. Yes, some patients need surgery. Doctors have a hard time deciding on surgery on someone that age, so feet get dragged. It is an impossible decision for a parent to make, since surgeries can have problems, and the patient can be worse (less than 10%). When they are worse, there is usually an explanation, but a second surgery is often needed after months and months of unsuccessful rehabilitation. For a professional athlete, paid big bucks, they have surgeries for speed of rehabilitation. Every second they miss playing cost the team money. But, in the non professional, and at a young age, you want to be very very sure that surgery is needed. I have treated 100s with this condition with less than 1% having surgery (and perhaps another 9-10% just stopping their activities to avoid surgery). So, 90% get better without surgery and can continue with their sport of choice at a high level, will your daughter be one of those? 

     Our doctor indicates feels that the literature supports good outcomes with nonsurgical treatment and that is what she recommends. Any information you can share to help us would be great. We just want to make sure that whatever treatment she receives it limits the time out of sport and reduces the chance of recurrence.
Dr Blake's comment: The approach to getting this better, and keeping it better, is a multi-discipline approach. The podiatrist/therapist/orthotist must make great orthotic devices to stabilize the injured arch/accessory bone. The physical therapist/trainer must develop a strengthening program, pain free, that gets the posterior tibial tendon, and the surrounding muscles/tendons, and the quads/core strong as the other side. Your daughter should be icing twice daily and contrast bathing for the bone edema once daily to remove the inflammation. She should be on a stationary bike, etc, pain free, up to one hour per day to get the legs strong for her return to activity. She needs to learn the best way to tape the area which gives her the best pain relief, since taping in soccer games/practices is crucial and more protective than orthotics. She should be in the deepest soccer shoe she can find. It is when the orthotics, tape, strength, pain level are right, she can go back to activity. The coach is probably the most vital part to this team. She/he must be protective of your daughter, be vigilant for signs of limping, know when to rest her, when to play her, perhaps change positions temporarily to help the demands on that ankle/foot. If the coach can not do this, all our best plans are destroyed, and it gives conservative management a bad name. Make sure diet is very healthy, including at least (2) 4 ounce servings of red meat weekly, if she is not a red meat eater. And, as parents, you need to get rid of any time line right now as you read this. Honor her body tissue. Do not think about time lines, you will only get frustrated. 

Thank you so much


Dr Blake's comment: So, in summary, here is your next 3 month assignment:

  1. Wean from Non weight bearing to weight bearing without increased pain
  2. Perfect the orthotics
  3. Perfect the soccer cleats
  4. Avoid barefoot at home if that bothers the area
  5. Learn a variety of taping methods
  6. Ice and Contrast Bath daily
  7. Eat healthy
  8. Talk to the coach about a gradual return to soccer, and any ideas on position change
  9. Tell the physical therapist you want to learn a pain free gradual and progressive strengthening program so 6 months from now you have tendons of steel (at least 3 times stronger). 
 Good Luck!!

And the response: 
Dr. Blake,

Thank you so much for your information. As a result of the info you provided we decided to seek a second opinion from an orthopedic surgeon. His diagnosis correlated with your info. He recommended casting in a walking boot for the next 3 weeks but did not feel NWB was necessary or appropriate. This is great news for us as this is not a stress fracture of the navicular as we were being told was a possibility as well . She is allowed to walk in the boot and swim which will decrease unnecessary  deconditioning and ankle stiffness. He also said surgery may be an option using a modified kidner only if conservative measures fail. He recommended physical therapy and orthotics.

Thank you again. It is nice to finally have a clear diagnosis and logical treatment options backed by two professionals.

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Thank you very much for leaving a comment. Due to my time restraints, some comments may not be answered.I will answer questions that I feel will help the community as a whole.. I can only answer medical questions in a general form. No specific answers can be given. Please consult a podiatrist, therapist, orthopedist, or sports medicine physician in your area for specific questions.