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Important Things to Know About a Fracture

rangefootandankle April 24 1Fracturing (breaking) some bones in the foot is easy, and others fortunately are more difficult to break. Accidentally kicking the bedpost or another hard object is the most common way to fracture a toe. If this has happened to you, you know how incredibly painful it can be. The toes aren’t necessarily the easiest bones to break but they are the most accessible. Outside of the toes, the metatarsal bones, other than the first metatarsal, are highly susceptible to fractures.

The base of the fifth metatarsal, which is on the outside middle part of the foot, often breaks when the ankle and foot are “rolled” under. A common ankle sprain can include a fracture of the fifth metatarsal base. Breaking this bone in a certain spot, called a Jones Fracture, can mean either surgery or 6 to 8 weeks in a cast.

The second, third, and fourth metatarsal bones are the most susceptible to what’s known as a stress fracture. This type of fracture happens without an injury. Abnormal stress occurs to one of these bones for different reasons, which can cause the bone to crack, and pain and swelling ensue.

Fortunately the other bones in the foot, called the tarsal bones are thicker and stronger than the phalanges (toes) and metatarsals. It takes a much stronger force to fracture one of these bones.

What is mission critical to heal a fracture faster is eliminating or minimizing the movement of the fracture site. Sometimes this is done with a fracture shoe or walking boot, and sometimes it requires a cast. When a fracture is stabilized appropriately it typically takes six to eight weeks to heal.

Another important concept pertaining to a fracture is whether the joint is involved. Any fracture that involves a joint requires even more attention to stabilization. Preventing movement of this type of fracture reduces the chance of long-term joint damage.

A broken bone in the foot can either be an uncomplicated situation, or a lengthy frustrating problem. The most important first step is to accurately diagnose the situation. Without an x-ray of an injury you don’t know whether a fracture is involved. It’s a myth that you wouldn’t be able to walk on a fracture. People walk on a fractured bone, sometimes for months, not realizing that a bone was broken.

No one enjoys being slowed down for weeks, but having pain for months or years is not an attractive proposition either. Swelling in the foot or ankle with or without an injury should be investigated for a possible fracture.

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