Under enough pressure, everything breaks. Even concrete and steel will crack if they are hit hard enough. Your bones are very strong, but the right impact—whether sudden, or repeated over time—will crack them. That is how you develop foot fractures.
A Structural Breakdown
A fracture is any kind of break in your bone tissue. This can range from a shallow crack to a fully dislocated break. One can be located anywhere in your lower limbs, including the toes, heels, and ankles. There are two main types of this injury: a stress fracture and a traumatic break.
A stress fracture is a thin split in the bone tissue that doesn’t cut all the way through. It’s the result of overuse and repetitive impaction on the foot. This is a common issue for runners and other athletes who repeatedly pound the ground for sports. The strain wears out the supportive tissues in your lower limbs, so they no longer absorb shock efficiently. Your bones then become stressed and crack under the pressure. The pain develops slowly as the crack worsens. The area around the injury may be swollen and tender to the touch. You’ll find it increasingly uncomfortable to put pressure on the affected foot, too.
A traumatic break happens suddenly, typically without warning. You trip, stub a toe, get hit playing sports, or are involved in a car accident. The impact cracks the bone and causes sudden pain and swelling. Your foot may bruise as well. You may or may not be able to put weight on the foot or walk after the injury.
The Severity Varies
Not all traumatic breaks are the same and they range in severity. Typically these can be divided into a couple categories—aligned and dislocated. An aligned fracture is a simple break where the two ends of the bones stay lined up. A dislocated fracture is more serious. One or both ends of the bones move out of the proper position, so the pieces do not line up. Part of the bone may even stick out through your skin if the injury is severe enough.
A bone can break into multiple pieces, too. The more fractures there are, the more unstable and severe the injury is. Whether the break is serious or simple, though, you need to take care of the issue right away so your foot can heal. Without proper treatment, you may develop chronic weakness and instability in that limb. A misaligned bone may also create deformities. You’re far more likely to develop arthritis, too.
Healing the Break
Dr. Jennifer Keller and Dr. Marshal Gwynn will need to examine your feet to accurately diagnose your condition and determine how serious it is. Our staff will use X-rays to get a clear picture of the damage to your bone tissue. Then we can begin targeted treatment to allow your foot or ankle to heal.
Foot fractures need to be immobilized to recover. For toes, this may be as simple as buddy-taping the digit to a healthy neighbor or wearing a stiff-soled shoe. Other breaks may need full, non-weight bearing casts. You’ll have to rest your foot for several weeks to give the bones time to repair. Ice the swollen area and keep your foot elevated to reduce edema and alleviate discomfort.
A dislocated fracture will have to be aligned before your foot can be casted so that the ends of the bones match up. Sometimes this can be done without surgery. However, some breaks may need a procedure to align them. If the bones are unstable, they may need to be pinned in place with screws or plates to heal.
Fractures are serious and painful injuries that can create a lot of problems for your lower limbs. They need prompt, invested care to restore your feet to full strength. If you’re worried you may have broken a toe or your foot, don’t wait for complications to develop before seeking help. Contact Shenandoah Podiatry for an appointment. Call (540) 904-1458 for our Roanoke office, or (540) 808-4343 for our Blacksburg location.