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Foot Ankle Int. 2012 Jul;33(7):571-81. doi: 10.3113/FAI.2012.0001.

Nonoperative management of retrocalcaneal pain with AFO and stretching regimen.



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.


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.


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.


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.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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