Fractures are some of the more serious foot conditions that we deal with. Depending on the state of the bone and the soft tissue around it, we might need to resort to surgical intervention. However, not all breaks are created equal, and there are certain things to keep in mind regarding fractures in your feet.
What Is a Fracture?
A fracture is, quite simply, a break in the bone. Since nearly a quarter of all the bones in your body are in your feet, this is an area that is affected frequently. Your feet support your entire body. They also run, jump, kick, and walk on uneven surfaces. It is very common for them to suffer trauma and injuries from all the things they do for us. The most common symptoms of a fracture in the foot are pain, swelling, and bruising. In some cases you may be unable to walk without severe pain, while in other cases you mobility isn’t affected that much. If the swelling and pain do not go away after two or three days, there is a chance that your bones are not healing on their own. You should come in and let us examine you or take X-rays to determine the treatment you need.
Types of Fractures
There are several different types of fractures that frequently affect the feet and toes.
- Stress fractures usually occur in the bones that connect the toes to the group of boned near the ankle. They are small cracks in the surface of the bones. They typically happen when physical activity is increased suddenly, instead of gradually over a period of time.
- Sesamoid fractures occur in the small round bones under the big toe joint. The sesamoid bones are found within the tendons, and they can be fractured by crush injuries, falls, and overextending the toes.
- Stable fractures mean that a bone has broken, but has stayed in alignment.
- Displaced fractures mean that the bones do not line up anymore and need to be realigned properly. This type usually occurs when something heavy falls on your feet or ankles.
- Jones fractures occur near the bottom of the bone. They can be more serious because they may cut off the blood supply to the bone, which means they take longer to heal.
Each fracture is different and may require different types of treatment methods, but there are some basic similarities. Resting the feet is very important, even if you feel that you can walk on them easily. You might end up doing more damage to the fracture, which can lead to more invasive interventions. Your foot may need to be immobilized with a boot, cast, or splint. Often, if your toes are broken your doctor will utilize the “buddy system” of taping the broken toe to a healthy toe next to it. In very rare cases, when the skin is broken or the soft tissue around the bone has been damaged, surgery is needed.
X-rays help determine whether a bone has been fractured or damaged by conditions such as an infection, arthritis, or other disease.
Other reasons for conventional X-rays on your feet are to:
- Evaluate changes in the bones from infections, arthritis, or other bone disease.
- Assess whether a child's bones are growing normally.
- Locate foreign objects (such as pieces of glass or metal) in a wound.
- Determine whether bones are properly set after treating a fracture.
Pregnant women, especially those in their first trimester, are advised against having X-rays because the radiation may harm the unborn child.