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Martin Foot & Ankle

Foot Fractures: When Bones Give Way

Fractured ankleBroken objects can’t support much pressure. Imagine a cracked floor board or support beam. Try to put weight on it and the board or beam risks collapsing beneath you. This is true for your body, too. Your feet are your foundation, but your foot bones are the support structures that make holding you up possible. A broken foot weakens your whole body and may make it too painful to walk.

When Bones Fracture or Break

A fracture is any type of crack or break in your bone tissue, ranging from small stress fractures to large, displaced breaks. The injury can happen to any of the bones in your lower limbs, including your ankles and toes. Usually the problem is the result of a sudden accident. You may trip, land a jump, or fall incorrectly, or suffer a hard impact in sports. Whatever happens, your foot is subjected to a stronger force than your bones can absorb. The strain causes one or more of the bones to crack.

There are two main types of full fractures: displaced and non-displaced. Displaced breaks have ends that do not align because one or both bones are no longer in the right position, which create complications for recovering. Non-displaced injuries are simpler—the ends stayed in the right place and will heal more easily.

Occasionally, the break can be the result of overuse. Repeated hard impacts and strain that your foot isn’t conditioned to handle can lead to stress fractures, which are shallow splits in the hard tissue. Although these cracks don’t go all the way through the bone, they do weaken your foot painfully and make you more likely to suffer a complete break.

What to Expect from Foot Fractures

Whether you have a small fissure or a full break, any crack in a bone causes pain. Overuse problems develop over time, making it increasingly uncomfortable to participate in your regular activities. Most of these injuries are sudden accidents, though, so the pain is immediate and sharp. You may or may not hear a snap when your foot or ankle cracks. The injury also causes swelling and bruising around the break. The affected spot will be tender to the touch and possibly bent oddly or deformed in some way. You may not be able to put weight on the limb, much less walk normally.

No matter what bone is damaged, you need to have it treated right away. Continuing to walk on a broken foot only compounds damage to the lower limb, making it more painful and less likely to heal correctly. Eventually this could lead to a permanent weakness, deformity, or chronic arthritis. Displaced fractures in particular have to be realigned right away to prevent long-term problems.

Recovering from A Fracture or Break

If you’ve broken your foot, our podiatrists at Martin Foot and Ankle will need to examine it carefully to identify the exact location of the injury and determine its severity. We will need X-rays or other diagnostic images to get a clearer picture of your foot bones. Once we understand your injury, we can help you treat it.

Broken toes can typically be buddy-taped to splint them. Your foot or ankle will definitely have to be immobilized in a cast or special walking boot for a time to keep the bones still enough to heal. Often this also means no weight-bearing on the affected foot for a few weeks. Icing the area and keeping your foot elevated will help minimize the swelling. We may recommend pain killers to help with inflammation as well. If any bone is displaced, it will have to be realigned.

Usually this can be done manually, but occasionally it requires surgery. A complicated fracture that isn’t staying in the right place or has broken into multiple pieces may even need to be held together with pins or metal plates.

A broken foot is a painful problem that can significantly hamper your mobility. Even if you have a mild injury that still allows you to walk, you need to have it properly treated to prevent chronic complications. Let our foot podiatry team at Martin Foot and Ankle in York, Lancaster, Lititz and Hanover, PA, know if you’re concerned you may have a fracture or broken bone. Just call any of our offices at (717) 757-3537 to make an appointment.