Every year, millions of people suffer from broken bones, and about 10% of those fractures happen in the feet. Considering how much we use our feet and how much wear and tear they’re exposed to, that’s not too surprising.
Foot fractures can range from relatively mild to severe and include symptoms like chronic aching, sharp pain, and problems putting weight on the foot. While seeking care for more severe foot fractures is an obvious choice, many people wonder if more mild fractures can heal on their own with a little rest.
At Powell Orthopedics and Sports Medicine in Vestavia Hills, Alabama, Thomas Powell, MD, and our team offer patient-centered care for foot fractures. We tailor every treatment plan for quick and complete healing. In this post, Dr. Powell explains how foot fractures happen, how they’re treated, and how we can help you get back on your feet as soon as possible.
The basics of foot fractures
Your feet consist of 26 bones, along with dozens of muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Fractures can occur in any of the toe bones, the heel bones, or the metatarsals, which are the bones that comprise the middle part of your foot. In fact, metatarsal fractures are among the most common foot injuries seen by doctors.
The bones, ligaments, tendons, and muscles all work together to support normal foot function during all sorts of activities, and they also help keep your foot stable. At the same time, all these structures support your body weight in addition to the force involved in walking, running, climbing, and other actions.
Lots of factors can cause or contribute to foot fractures. Some foot fractures can happen for obvious reasons, such as falls or car accidents. Other fractures can occur if you move your foot in an unusual way or land poorly after a jump. You can also develop fractures from repetitive activities, such as running. Furthermore, osteoporosis can contribute to your risk of developing fractures.
How to handle foot fractures
The good news is, many minor foot fractures can heal on their own if given appropriate medical support. That doesn’t mean you don’t need to see a doctor — you do. But it does mean that for these fractures, you usually don’t need surgery or even a cast in many cases.
Mild foot fractures include fractures where the break is minimal, such as a hairline fracture, and when the bones are not displaced. In these instances, we may recommend complete rest of the foot with crutches to prevent weight-bearing, along with elevation, ice, and compression to minimize swelling and stabilize the foot. A special boot might be prescribed in some cases for additional stability.
If a fracture is more severe — such as if the bones are displaced, if other structures are involved, or if there are signs of nerve damage — more medical support is typically required. That might mean wearing a cast or splint, having the bones repositioned, or even undergoing surgery, especially if screws or pins are needed to secure the foot.
Your lifestyle can also affect your treatment. For instance, if you lead a very active lifestyle or you’re an athlete, we may recommend more aggressive treatment even for a mild fracture, so we can facilitate healing and get you back to your regular activities more quickly. We may also recommend physical therapy to help restore normal foot function and prevent fractures in the future.
All fractures need medical attention
Your bones provide the structural framework for your entire body, and any type of fracture, no matter how “mild,” requires medical attention to ensure the break is cared for properly. X-rays and other diagnostic imaging, combined with a thorough examination of your foot, can help Dr. Powell and his team design a treatment plan to help you heal and prevent complications.
If you think you might have a foot fracture or if you have any unusual symptoms in your feet, call 205-606-5232 or request an appointment online with Powell Orthopedics and Sports Medicine today.