Like most parts of the body, feet are often taken for granted. They allow you to get up from bed, walk, hold your body weight, and exercise. You may pay attention to them when purchasing new shoes, but other than that, it’s easy to not pay them much attention — until there’s an injury. Whether from an accident or a sports injury, foot fractures are painful and can severely limit your daily routine. But, how do you know if your foot’s broken? What are the most common symptoms? Are there any complications? And, is there anything you can do to prevent future injuries?
Overview of a Fractured Foot
Foot fractures occur when any of the bones in your foot break. The severity may range from a hairline fracture to misaligned bones that may require surgery to get back to their original position. For example, a person with a stress fracture may only require rest and possibly wearing a boot, while a person with a severe injury may need surgery to realign the bones or even to implant metal components to make the foot whole.
While minor breaks can heal on their own, you should always seek medical care if you think your foot may be broken. Failing to do so could increase the risk of developing serious health complications.
Symptoms of a Fractured Foot
Symptoms of a fractured foot will vary from person to person and on the severity of the injury. However, there are common denominators across the board. These include:
- Intense pain that worsens with physical activity
- Difficulty or inability to bear weight
Some people can actually hear the bone-breaking as the injury occurs. If you did not hear such a noise, it may be possible your foot is sprained instead of fractured. The only way to know for sure is to have an orthopedic doctor take x-rays. This also allows them to determine the extent of the injury.
Causes and Risk Factors of Foot Fractures
There are several causes and risk factors for foot fractures. These include:
- Trauma — such as an accident or fall
- Dropping something heavy on the foot
- Participating in high impact sports — such as football or rugby
- Failing to use protective equipment while playing sports
- Working in high-risk occupations — such as construction
- Certain underlying medical conditions
Diagnosis and Treatment of Foot Fractures
Foot fractures are diagnosed by imaging such as x-rays or CT scans. While x-rays are more common, CT scans allow medical professionals to detect smaller injuries that may not be visible in an x-ray — such as a stress or hairline fracture. Once your doctor confirms your injury is a fracture, treatment will depend on the type of injury. The most common forms of treatment include:
- Pain medications
- Manually setting bones back to their original position
- Wearing a cast, splint, or boot
- Having to use crutches or a wheelchair
- Resting and taking time off sports
- Surgery — only in the most severe cases
Recovery Time for a Foot Fracture
Recovery time varies from patient to patient. Things to consider are the severity and location of the bone break, as well as whether you have any underlying health conditions that may delay healing — such as diabetes, hypothyroidism, anemia, or low vitamin D levels. That being said, for most patients, a foot fracture typically heals in about eight weeks. However, always follow your doctor’s instructions to ensure you’re doing what’s specifically best for you.
Complications of a Foot Fracture
Complications of bone fractures could lead to long-term pain in discomfort due to several factors. These include:
While it’s common to think of older patients when you hear the word arthritis, bone fractures could lead to wearing out of the cartilage on an injured joint. This could be the result of trauma — such as a car accident, fall, or sports injury. Symptoms include joint pain, fluid accumulation in the joint, swelling, and a decreased ability to do certain activities, such as walking or taking stairs.
In more serious fractures, the ends of the broken bones could end up misaligned. When this occurs, they need to be manually manipulated to their original position. Failing to do so will cause the body’s healing process to fill up the empty space with new bone. This is called a malunion. Additional issues with malunions include twisted or bent bones, resulting in deformities. This could affect your range of motion and result in chronic pain.
These are more likely to occur if the fracture was severe enough to break the skin. Signs of bone infection include fever, fatigue, pain in the site of injury, swelling, warmth, and redness over the injured area. It’s also common for pockets of puss to form over the injury. There may also be a risk of infection if the fracture requires surgery. However, the risk of infection in this scenario is relatively low.
Preventing Foot Fractures
There are several things you can do to reduce the risk of foot fractures. These include:
- Wearing protective footwear: Whether you’re running, hiking, or working in a high-risk area, wear adequate shoes for each occasion. If you play sports, replace your shoes every several months or at around the 400-mile mark if you’re a runner.
- Easing into exercise gradually: Doing too much, too fast, too soon increases the likelihood of getting injured. Any time you start a new fitness program or join a new sport, consult with your doctor and/or coach or fitness instructor as to the best approach to do so safely.
- Increasing bone density: You can do this by doing weight-bearing exercises regularly, such as walking, dancing, jumping rope, or running. In addition, increase your calcium and vitamin D intake to promote better bone health.
- Making your home safer: Some people have suffered fractures from bumping into items or experiencing falls in their own homes. Clearing clutter and installing night lights will make it easier to move around at night — especially for older individuals.
24-Hour Emergency Room Services in Colorado Springs and Texas
If you or a loved one believe you may have a foot fracture, let us help you. If you have questions or need immediate treatment, your nearest Complete Care location is ready to help, no matter the time of day or night. We offer a variety of services to help you and your family in your time of need. No appointments are necessary.