Did you know? About 10% of all fractures happen to your feet. It makes sense when you think about it: our feet are the physical testers of the surface under us, they support our weight whether we’re balanced or not, and the extended surface of the foot is vulnerable to whatever falls out of our hands. Anything from a strongly stubbed toe to a traumatic accident can leave toe and metatarsal (midfoot) bones fractured. Arvada podiatrist, Dr. Scales will examine the break and provide treatment specific to your type of injury.
A fracture is a type of bone break. There are two types of foot fractures: traumatic fractures and stress fractures. Traumatic fractures occur as a result of a direct hit to the bone. Falling off a ladder or kicking a table are examples of a hard surface coming directly in contact with the foot. Stress fractures usually happen to weight-bearing bones where pressure and tension are applied over periods of time. Athletes who increase training amounts often work their feet to the limit, creating small hairline cracks over the surface of the bone. Over time, a person with osteoporosis may also experience stress fractures. However, both traumatic and stress fractures can happen to anyone, so it is imperative to see a doctor if you are hurt.
There are an infinite number of causes for having a traumatic or stress fracture. A deformed foot, for example, may put pressure on different weight-bearing bones, leading to stress fractures over time. Or that same deformed foot may lead to impaired movement, causing someone to trip down stairs and end up with a traumatic fracture.
Have you been experiencing pain as a result of blunt force to the foot? Whatever the specific cause, ask your local doctor about the possibility of a traumatic fracture.
Do you suffer from bone pain without an accident? You may actually have a fractured bone in your foot, even if there hasn’t been an obvious cause of a bone break.
The symptoms differ for a traumatic fracture and a stress fracture.
Signs of a traumatic fracture include noticeable bruising, swelling, and pain on place of impact. If you hit a toe directly, it may look irregularly bent. Even if the pain decreases after hours or a day, it is still important to see a doctor before the bone improperly heals. Not treating a traumatic fracture may lead to chronic pain, arthritis, permanent deformity, and require surgery to treat.
Signs of a stress fracture begin with pain that goes away only when pressure is off the foot. This is the indicator that you are dealing with something more than a pulled muscle or tired feet after a day of unusual activity. The pain will always return once you are back on your feet and putting weight on the stressed bone. There will be no bruising, as no area of the foot was traumatically hit, but there may be swelling and pain over the area of the fracture.
Trained foot doctors, such as Arvada podiatrist Dr. Scales, will walk you through what to expect when you visit. Be prepared to give a history of the condition, and whether there was a traumatic incident or pressure on the foot over time. You may be asked to stand and take a few steps, so the doctor can view how you shift your weight, or hear you describe the type and location of discomfort or pain. The doctor may carefully examine the foot to rule out other causes, such as strained muscles or torn ligaments. Finally, an X-ray will determine if you do have a fracture, whether it is a traumatic or stress fracture, and the severity of the break. Location and severity of the fracture will determine what kind of treatment will be most effective for you.
If you do have a fractured bone, which bone is it? Treatment varies depending on the location and purpose of the bone in question.
The least serious treatment is just taking it easy. Can you get by on crutches, or spend time off the foot? Whether the fracture is of the toes or metatarsals, occasionally all you need is to rest the foot if the fracture is small. Avoid strenuous activity or positions that require balancing all your weight on the injured foot.
The next treatment is some kind of foot support. Rigid shoes protect fractured bones, bandages help keep the foot in place, and a cast may be needed for a more severely broken bone.
Finally, surgery may be required. Certain types of fractures are best healed by surgery; if the joint of the fractured toe is somehow affected, surgery is the best bet to ensuring that the joint heals along with the bone. Or if the break is badly displaced, meaning that part of the bone has twisted away from the rest of it.
It is important to remember that treatment doesn’t end after the surgical process or visit to a podiatrist. Regardless of treatment type, you may be asked to seek physical therapy or slowly exercise to ensure a safe return to health.